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The difference between a tornado watch and warning

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Posted at 3:38 PM, May 10, 2023

DENVER — We've already seen multiple tornado warnings and watches in Colorado Wednesday.

Knowing when severe weather is about to hit is crucial, and that includes knowing the difference between a watch and a warning — two words that sound and look similar, but mean a world of difference when weather's headed your way.

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A severe thunderstorm watch or a tornado watch are issued by the National Weather Service means weather conditions are right for one of these storms to develop. You should continue to monitor the weather for any changes. Thunderstorm watches or tornado watches are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours.

A severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning are issued by the National Weather Service and means a severe storm or tornado is indicted by radar or sighted by spotters, and it's time to take cover immediately if you're in the affected area. Tornado warnings are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes.

Weather alerts are relayed to the public in a number of ways including smartphones, broadcast television and NOAA weather radios. And if all else fails, tornado sirens will sometimes sound off, but when and why the sirens go off varies in different communities.


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