What’s The Difference Between a Tornado Watch & Warning in Texas?
It's one of those things we all hear regularly on weather reports, but you may still not be sure what the exact difference between the two is. Here in Tyler, TX and across the U.S., a "watch" and an "warning" remain constant, so let's see if we can commit their differences to memory.
According to the NOAA, from 1989 - 2013 May saw the most tornadoes here in Texas, followed by April then June. On the other side, February, July, August, and December saw the least amount of tornadoes. Below is the average number of tornadoes per month in Texas between 1989 and 2013.
You'd think that the folks at the National Weather Service could have come up with terminology a little more clear than "Watch" and "Warning," right? Well they didn't, so let's see if we can finally get the meaning of each down for good.
Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
TL;DR: "Watch" means be prepared, it could happen. "Warning" means it's time to take action, it's happening.