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Tornado watches, warning have very important meanings

Watch vs. Warning

Image courtesy of NOAA. 

On average, two tornadoes come through New Jersey each year, according to the National Weather Service. The rarity of this occurring means that we may not fully understand what a tornado watch or a tornado warning fully means. In short, a tornado watch means that tornadoes are favorable for development, but did not occur. When a tornado is spotted on the ground, or when radar indicates a tornado, a tornado warning will be issued.

Below are the definitions the National Weather Service uses for tornadoes.

Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

Tornado Watch for Warning

A tornado watch covers a large area and is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Tornado warnings are issued by the local forecast office when a tornado is spotted or indicated on weather radar. 

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