Understanding the difference between National Weather Service watches and warnings is critical to being prepared for any dangerous weather hazard, including hurricanes.
A watch lets you know that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur. It literally means "be on guard!" During a weather watch, gather awareness of the specific threat and prepare for action - monitor the weather to find out if severe weather conditions have deteriorated and discuss your protective action plans with your family.
A warning requires immediate action. This means a weather hazard is imminent - it is either occurring (a tornado has been spotted, for example) - or it is about to occur at any moment. During a weather warning, it is important to take action: grab the emergency kit you have prepared in advance and head to safety immediately. Both watches and warnings are important, but warnings are more urgent.
National Weather Service Products
National Hurricane Center
Local Weather Forecast Office (locations)
Public Advisories offer critical hurricane watch, warning and forecast information.
Forecast/Advisories provide detailed hurricane track and wind field information.
Probabilities offer locally specific chances of experiencing tropical storm, strong tropical storm and hurricane force winds out to 5 days to better know if one will be impacted and when these conditions may occur.
Hurricane Local Statements (HLS) give greater detail on how the storm will impact your area.
Non-precipitation weather products provide High Wind Watches and Warnings for inland areas that could experience strong winds.
How to Stay Informed
Use all of the above information to make an informed decision on your risk and what actions to take. Listen to recommendations of local officials on TV, radio and other media and to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for the latest tropical cyclone information.
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
The National Weather Service (NWS) continuously broadcasts warning, watches, forecasts and non-weather related hazard information on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR). The average range of the 1000+ NWR transmitters is 40 miles, depending on topography. For the best performing NWR receivers, NWS suggests you look at devices certified to Public AlertTM standards.
These radios meet specific technical standards and come with many features such as Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), a battery backup, both audio and visual alarms, selective programming for the types of hazards you want to be warned for, and the ability to activate external alarm devices for people with disabilities. Similar to a smoke detector, an NWR can wake you up in the middle of the night to alert you of a dangerous situation.
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