Tornado Watch vs Warning

Oklahoma tornado damage
Oklahoma tornado damage

In less than two weeks we will be commemorating the second anniversary of the tornado that struck Western and Central Massachusetts.  I was not directly in the path of the tornado but I know many people who were and it is the most horrifying thing one can imagine.  We are used to all sorts of bad weather here in Massachusetts but tornadoes are rare and hard to get used too.  Listening to the television reports this past week from Oklahoma I guess you never get used to tornadoes.

So with more bad weather on the way for us here in Massachusetts I thought I would define some terms:

A tornado watch means that there is significant chance that the weather pattern could create a tornado.

A tornado warning means that thunderstorms with a tornado is imminent or that a tornado has been spotted on the ground.

This past week, the folks in Moore, Oklahoma had about 16 minutes notice that a tornado was on the way.  This may seem like a long time but it really is not.  Being prepared is important and taking time to be prepared before the weather strikes is the way to go.  If the weather service reports a tornado warning for your area you need to seek shelter immediately and stay there until the threat passes.  You need a place that is safe, experts say below ground is the best place to be, but if you cannot get below ground than an interior room is the best.  If you are outside, get inside immediately.

The most important part of all of this is to pay attention to what the weather folks are saying.  The “weather man” takes a lot of abuse about being wrong and hyping things up, but it is much better to be prepared and then stand down than it is to try and prepare when the “beast” is approaching. Usually on the day that severe weather is predicted, there will be reports about it all day so pay attention and be prepared.


  1. thanks for the article! VERY good advice. growing up in tornado country myself i can in fact confirm that you never really do get used to it. but you can get good at dealing with it. the difference between a “watch” and a “warning” is essential and hearing that there is a “warning” and getting to shelter can literally save lives. especially yours. seconds really count in that situation because things can change so fast and a tornado’s movement can be so erratic and unpredictable. this is no joke folks. thanks again!

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