Severe Weather Awareness Week kicked off this past weekend for the New York metropolitan region, and what better time than now to help explain some of the lingo you’ll often hear from weather forecasters across the nation during one of the most violent weather months of the year.
May is considered the heart of tornado season, but it’s not all about tornadoes, ya know... Over the last 20 years a variety of severe weather events has killed over 100 people in New York state alone, and has caused over three quarters of a billion dollars in damage. On average, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues 400 severe thunderstorm warnings, 17 tornado warnings and about 150 flash flood warnings each year in the Empire State. So, next time you hear word of any of these warnings, remember these definitions:
A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when severe thunderstorms capable of producing winds of at least 58 mph and or hail of at least one inch in diameter, are possible within the next few hours (typically less than six hours).
A severe thunderstorm warning means that severe thunderstorms are imminent or occurring, and could pose a significant threat to life and property.
A tornado watch means conditions are ripe for tornadoes to form and they could do so within the next few hours (typically less than six hours).
A tornado warning means a tornado is imminent or occurring, and has likely been visually spotted or indicated by Doppler radar. A tornado warning implies an immediate threat to life and property and appropriate shelter should be taken immediately.
A flash flood watch means conditions are favorable for flash flooding, which is a rapid rise (typically within six hours) of water along a stream or low lying urban area, most commonly resulting from downpours associated with severe thunderstorms.
A flash flood warning means flash flooding is imminent or occurring and flood waters can rise rapidly, if they have not already.