20 Days to Ready: Decode the Weather (Day 14)

20 Days to Ready is a series of simple, daily tasks to help you better prepare for emergencies and protect your family when disaster strikes. Follow along, day by day, and you’ll be more ready (for just about anything) in a few short weeks.

ASSIGNMENT: Brush Up on Weather Watches, Warnings

Between emergency sirens, the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, radio, TV and other weather alerts, you’re not at a loss for resources to hear about bad conditions heading your way.

But you may want to brush up on your weather terms to better understand what all those watches and warnings mean. The following info from the National Weather Service can help you better respond when severe weather is approaching.


Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible in the area. When a watch is issued, you should stay informed and ready to act, the National Weather Service says.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe weather has been detected and reported, and there’s imminent danger. According to the American Red Cross, this means that you should take shelter.


Flood/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding is possible in your area. The National Weather Service says that, if a flood watch is issued, you should take steps to prepare.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding is already occurring (or will occur soon in your area). Be ready to evacuate, the Red Cross says. If you’re not indoors, head for higher ground.


Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in the area. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says, when a watch is issued, you should review your plan for what to do during a tornado and make sure emergency supplies are on hand. Be ready to act quickly.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or detected. There’s imminent danger to life and property. Now is the time to move immediately to a basement, a storm cellar, a safe room or an interior room without windows, the Red Cross says.

Hurricanes/Tropical Storms

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Watch: A tropical storm watch indicates tropical storm conditions (winds between 39 and 73 mph) are possible within the watch area, while a hurricane watch notes that hurricane conditions (winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible. In both cases, watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of the storm, the National Hurricane Center says, so that you enough time to plan for action.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Warning: Tropical storm or hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. At this point, complete your storm preparations, the National Hurricane Center says, and be ready to evacuate the area if directed by local officials.

Winter Storms

Winter Storm Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible within 36-48 hours. Review your winter storm plans and keep an eye on weather reports, the Red Cross says.

Winter Storm Warning: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that you take measures to keep your family safe, including staying indoors, avoiding driving and wearing proper protective clothing if you do need to go outside.

Click here to follow along with more “20 Days to Ready” emergency preparedness tasks.

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