6 First Alert Severe Weather Week: Understanding severe weather risk

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Part of being prepared for severe weather season is understanding the terms that meteorologists use to communicate our severe weather risk levels.

Watches, warnings, and risk categories can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean.

Let’s start by explaining the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) severe outlook. The outlook uses a scale of 1 to 5 from Marginal Risk, 1/5, to High Risk, 5/5.

SPC Outlook
SPC Outlook(wowt)

When severe storms are expected the SPC will create a map laying out the risk areas for any given day. A Marginal Risk means that there may be an isolated severe storm or two that day but whatever forms would likely be short-lived and on the lower end of the severe scale.

As we climb up the scale, the risk increases. An Enhanced Risk day indicates a risk for more widespread severe storms that last longer, impact more people and will likely be stronger. A High Risk day, 5/5 on the scale, is usually reserved for a day when a severe weather outbreak with tornadoes or a Derecho event is expected.

Pay attention to the risk scale so you know what to be prepared for!

When severe weather is expected or ongoing you’ll hear meteorologists talking about watches and warnings. It’s important to know the difference between the two and what to do when one is issued.

Watch vs Warning
Watch vs Warning(wowt)

A watch is issued before storms form. It means that conditions are favorable for strong storm development and that severe weather is expected later on. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch or Tornado Watch will be issued depending on the severe weather threat.

What to do if a watch is issued
What to do if a watch is issued(wowt)

When a Watch is issued make sure you’re prepared! Have your action plan ready in case you experience severe weather. Know what you’ll do and where you’ll go and have a way to stay informed. The WOWT Weather App is a great tool to get warnings right to your phone. The TV and radio are also great resources.

When a Warning is issued that means the severe weather is happening NOW. Seek shelter and go to a safe place to wait out the storm. If it is a tornado warning, get to the lowest level of your home and have a way to listen for updates.

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