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The difference between a watch and warning

Watch vs Warning Explainer (WLUK image)

(WLUK) -- Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week starts today in Wisconsin.

We'll have tips all week long, to keep you safe when storms hit.

Today, we're talking about the difference between watches and warnings.

Watches and warnings are issued based on different criteria and knowing the difference between the two can prepare you for the necessary steps to take when considering the threat of severe weather.

First, they're issued by two separate entities. Watches are issued by the NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and warnings are issued by local National Weather Service (NWS) offices.

A watch is issued when conditions are favorable either for a severe thunderstorm or tornadoes. It doesn't mean severe weather is imminent or happening.

Watches cover large areas as well, including several dozen counties or thousands of square miles. And they're often times issued for long period of time, generally several hours in length.

If your area is included in a watch area that means you should be on alert, having your severe weather action plan ready to go.

A warning means that severe weather is imminent or happening. The criteria for a warning include hail more than 1 inch in diameter, wind speeds of 55 mph or greater observed and/or a tornado has been radar indicated or spotted.

Warnings are issued for a particular area, generally a few counties and for a short amount of time, which can be anywhere from a matter of minutes to an much as an hour.

This is when that severe weather action plans needs to be put to use. Know where to go and what to do when a warning is issued.

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