What's The Difference Between A "Watch" And A "Warning"?
It's important to stay aware of severe weather watches and warnings and to know how to react. A "watch" means that conditions are favorable for severe storms. Watches are typically issued for large areas and are in effect for several hours. When a "watch" is issued, you should be alert for the POTENTIAL for severe weather. You can proceed with your plans, however you should be "on the lookout" for changing weather conditions and be ready to move to a safe place if you hear thunder or see lightning.
A "warning" means severe weather is imminent or occurring, and action should be immediate. Severe thunderstorms are capable of producing damaging wind and/or hail. In our area, straight-line winds result in the majority of storm damage. Therefore, you should be ready to react when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
It should be noted that lightning occurs with every thunderstorm. There is no "lightning warning." This does not mean that lightning is not dangerous. In fact, lightning kills or injures just as many people as tornadoes in an average year. If you hear thunder or see lightning, it is possible for lightning to strike. Lightning can strike several miles from the thunderstorm, even while the sun is shining! The safest place in a thunderstorm is inside a sturdy building. Stay away from windows, anything that is "plugged in" and plumbing. A hard-topped vehicle is acceptable if you are unable to reach a building.