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Severe Weather Awareness Week: Terminology

Day One of Severe Weather Awareness Week
Posted at 6:48 PM, Mar 23, 2020

Severe Weather Awareness Week is upon us! Now is a great time for a refresher as we head into the peak of severe weather season.

Watch the video above for an explanation from Meteorologist Mark Stitz.

When severe weather is possible, we typically have a bit of a heads up in the days beforehand. While we can’t yet pinpoint exactly where and when severe storms down to your backyard, we can tell which parts of a state or region are most likely to experience severe storms.

You’ll often see us refer to color-coded outlook maps with data on them from the Storm Prediction Center, or SPC. The SPC uses different risk categories to show where storms are most likely and how dangerous they will be. The levels range from "Marginal,” meaning a couple isolated severe storms are possible, to “High,” meaning widespread severe storms are expected. Seeing the Marginal, Slight, and Enhanced risk areas are pretty common for us here in Nebraska and Iowa. Having Moderate and High risk days are not impossible by any means, but certainly a bit less common.

Then, on the day we’re watching for severe weather, you’ll likely see a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch issued. A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when conditions are favorable for severe weather. Watches also cover a large area and last for several hours. Then, when severe weather happens, a warning will be issued. The warning means severe weather is happening right now and you need to take action/shelter immediately. Warnings last for a shorter amount of time and are usually only include a few counties at most. Watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.

Having multiple ways to receive severe weather information is crucial. Of course, if there is severe weather, we will be covering it on air and online at 3 News Now. Many of us have weather apps, too, and the Storm Shield App will alert you when severe weather is on the way. Another great way to get the information is by having a NOAA weather radio. This one is especially useful to have since its loud alert tone is more likely to wake you up at night when severe weather hits than a phone notification.