Hurricane watch vs. warning. What is the difference? If you live in Southwest Florida then you are no stranger to hurricane season. It seems every week or two there is a new storm being talked up on the news. But it is just talk until a warning or watch is actually issued. Understanding what the difference is between a hurricane watch and warning is important. So in this article we discuss what the difference is and why it matters for you and your family.
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What is a hurricane watch vs warning?
What does a hurricane warning vs watch mean? We give a definition of each below in more detail so you can get a better idea of the difference. In simple terms, a hurricane warning is issued when the start of the storm is closer for a specific affected area.
According to FEMA, a hurricane watch is issued “when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.” So a hurricane watch means an advisory 48 hours before a storm. The National Hurricane Center’s definition is similar.
Key takeaway: a hurricane watch means that a hurricane is POSSIBLE.
Also according to FEMA, a hurricane warning is issued when a storm with winds of at least 74 MPH is expected to hit a given area within 24 hours. The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) hurricane warnings are a little different. It changed its definition in 2010. The NHC currently issues a hurricane warning 36 hours in advance of the onset of hurricane-force winds. This change was made to allow people more time for hurricane preparation to be completed before a storm starts.
Key takeaway: a hurricane warning means that a hurricane IS EXPECTED within a specific area.
What is more severe: hurricane warning (advisory) vs watch?
According to the National Weather Service a warning indicates that there is a “80% greater probability of occurrence”. So a hurricane warning (advisory) means that a hurricane is more likely to happen, and hence, it is more severe.
So what does it mean if a hurricane warning has been issued? A warning (advisory) tells you that the storm is more likely to happen and that you should start your preparations if you haven’t already.
What about tropical storm watch vs warning?
NHC issues tropical storm watches 48 hours prior to the onset of tropical storm force winds (39 to 73 MPH) in a specific area.
Likewise, they issue tropical storm warnings 36 hours before the start of tropical storm conditions in a given area.
Why does it matter?
Understanding the differences between hurricane warnings and watches is important because it helps you prepare for the oncoming storm appropriately. For instance, you know that a hurricane or tropical storm is more likely to happen when a warning is issued vs. a watch. If not done already this should indicate that you need to install your hurricane shutters or storm panels, get the necessary supplies and complete all other storm preparation activities before the storm starts.
Where can you get hurricane info and be alerted of watches and warnings in Florida?
We have compiled a page with an exhaustive list of hurricane and tropical storm resources specifically for those living in Southwest Florida.
You can also keep up to date with tropical storm and hurricane watches, warnings, updates and current weather conditions through the following weather services, hurricane websites, etc.:
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Hurricane Center
- National Weather Service (NWS)
- Watches and Warnings
- Southwest Florida
- Rest of Florida
- Watches and Warnings
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