TORNADO WEEK: Terms you need to know to stay safe

Published: Apr. 19, 2019 at 7:10 PM CDT
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Preparing for severe weather begins days in advance. Our meteorologists follow a process when forecasting outlooks and warnings. Insight on important terminology can help you better understand the possible outcomes.

Outlook levels

A convective outlook issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., outlines areas that are under a risk for severe weather on a scale from 1 to 5, marginal to high.

A couple of days ahead of an event, if the weather team sees our area is in at least a slight risk — a level 2 out of 5 — the First Alert team will likely issue a First Alert Day.

By issuing a First Alert Day, 6 News meteorologists give you advanced notice on the weather that may impact your day. It ensures you remain weather-alert and that we remain focused on any severe weather threat by providing constant updates on-air, online, and on the First Alert Weather App.

Watch vs. Warning

Fast-forwarding to the day-of: a tornado watch or warning may be issued.


A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form. Normally, they’re issued for a number of counties, portions of a state for several hours.


A warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar. Tornado warnings are much more focused on parts of a storm, likely portions of a county for just a shorter period of time.

When a tornado warning is issued, you want to seek shelter immediately.