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Watch Vs Warning.gifWhat is the Difference between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch & a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?
A severe thunderstorm watch is usually issued before severe thunderstorms have developed, when conditions in the atmosphere favor development of organized or relatively widespread severe thunderstorms.

Sometimes, but not often, isolated severe thunderstorms can develop in an area not affected by a severe thunderstorm watch or an event can begin to occur just before the severe thunderstorm watch is issued.

There are numerous variables that must come together to produce severe weather, some of which depend on features that can't be resolved within the surface or upper-level data networks, but as soon as organized severe weather is expected, a watch is issued.

Severe Thunderstorms Can Occur in or Near the Watch AreaThunderstrom Life Cycle 1.gif
A severe thunderstorm warning is issued by the National Weather Service when severe weather is either occurring or will occur within a specified time (usually 60 minutes) within one or several counties.

A thunderstorm on radar is determined after analysis when it is capable of producing 3/4 inch hail or larger, damaging winds capable of blowing down trees or damage permanent structures, or if someone has reported severe weather and the thunderstorm is maintaining or increasing it's strength.

National Weather Service's (NWS) Definition of a Severe Thunderstorm
  • Hail 3/4 inch or larger, or basically the size of any coin or larger (a dime is 11/16 inch which the NWS accepts as 3/4 inch)
  • Fallen tree limbs with a minimum diameter of an average adult's wrist (if you're over 18 and a tree limb is the same diameter as your wrist or larger then it's worth reporting)
  • Living trees uprooted or blown down (Living trees are important since dead, questionably rotted trees require much less wind to blow them down)
  • Any part of a permanent, well-built structure damage or destroyed
  • Measured wind gust from a calibrated anemometer of 58 MPH (50 knots) or greater

The Bottom Line
So what's the bottom line when it comes to severe thunderstorm watches and warnings?

If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for your county, seek safe shelter and take necessary precautions, because you never want to take the chance of being a victim of a severe thunderstorm.

Harper County, KS
201 N. Jennings Ave.
Anthony, KS  67003
Ph: 1-877-537-2110