Tornado Watch Vs. Tornado Warning

Tornados in Tennessee

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What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning? A tornado watch is just to let folks know to be on the lookout for a possible tornado in the area whereas a tornado warning is a notification that a tornado has been seen or picked up by radar. Keep these things in mind when you're in Tennessee or Tornado Alley during tornado season.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch is issued to alert people to the possibility of a tornado developing in your area.

At this point, a tornado has not been seen but the conditions are very favorable for tornados to occur at any moment. ​

Things to do when a tornado watch is issued:

  • Keep alert and watch for changing weather conditions
  • Listen to your local news reports & weather updates
  • Review your family or business emergency preparedness plan
  • Review your disaster kit
  • Be ready to seek shelter at a moments notice

What to watch for during a tornado watch:

  • Dark greenish or orange-gray skies
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying, rotating or funnel-shaped clouds
  • A loud roar that is similar to a freight train

Tornado Warning

A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado has actually been sighted or has been picked up on radar in your area. This means that you need to take shelter immediately in a safe sturdy structure.

Things to do when a Tornado Warning is issued:

  • Take shelter immediately
  • Listen to your local radio for updates
  • Follow the National Weather Service Safety Guidelines (below)

    What not to do during a tornado:

    • Do not stay in a Mobile home as they offer very little protection from tornadoes.
    • Do not open the windows in your home or business
    • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a car
    • Do not get under a highway overpass or bridge as you will be exposing yourself to flying debris and stronger winds.

      National Weather Service Safety Guidelines

      • If you are in a building:
        Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the building's lowest level. If you don't have a basement, take shelter in the center of an interior room on the lowest level, such as a bathroom, closet or interior hallway that is away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
      • If you are in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home:
        Get out immediately and go to a nearby sturdy building or storm shelter and seek shelter on its lowest floor.
      • If you are outside without nearby shelter:
        Lie down in a ditch, ravine, or depression nearby and cover your head with your hands.