WCTV Severe Weather Guide

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By: Ryan Kaufman | WCTV Eyewitness News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Do you know the difference between a severe thunderstorm warning and a watch? What about a tornado warning or a tornado watch? This article will help to answer these questions.

Here are some important definitions according to the National Weather Service:

Tornado Warning:

Tornadic rotation has been spotted, debris has been detected aloft on the radar, or a tornado has been spotted on the ground, and you should seek shelter.

Tornado Watch:

Weather conditions allow for the development of tornadoes, and those in the watch area need to be weather aware and take shelter should a warning be issued. A watch does not mean a tornado has been spotted.


Severe Thunderstorm Warning:

You should take action immediately and seek shelter inside. This type of alert is issued when a storm has winds of at least 58 mph, and or hail of at least one inch in diameter.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch:

Issued well in advance of a possible storm system. The Storm Prediction Center looks at forecast models for that day to see where the conditions might be "just right" to issue a watch so the public is prepared and isn't caught off guard when a severe storm approaches.


If you find yourself under a tornado warning, you should seek shelter in either the most interior portion of your home or in a basement. Stay away from windows or any passages to the outside. Do not waste time by opening your windows. This is actually an urban legend that has been scientifically disproven, and does nothing to keep you safe.

If you are caught outside when a tornado warning is issued, get to a safe building immediately and avoid sheds or storage buildings. These types of buildings are not sturdy enough and can easily be blown down by any tornado. If you live in a mobile home, seek shelter elsewhere immediately. Mobile homes offer little to no shelter as most walls are exposed to the outside and these homes do not have a foundation.

The National Weather Service says the best way to stay safe during a severe storm is to be prepared ahead of time. They encourage all citizens to buy a NOAA weather radio to receive alerts as they are issued. The NWS also recommends constructing a safety plan with your family well in advance of any storm threat. The old saying, "Knowledge is power" can be turned into "Knowledge is safety" in this case.

Below are some helpful links to educate yourself, and your family about severe weather.

NWS thunderstorm preparedness

NWS tornado preparedness

NWS/SPC severe weather definitions

Storm Prediction Center website

National Weather Service: Tallahassee

And as always, you can download the WCTV PinPoint Weather App by clicking the link, or visit your phone's app store.