Weather-related disasters can be unpredictable and disastrous, causing loss of lives and properties worth billions of dollars. Tornadoes are among the most unpredictable and destructive weather phenomena that could occur. They develop from severe thunderstorms and can happen at any time of the day, but are more common during the spring and summer seasons. A Tornado is defined as a rotating column of air that contacts the ground, and if severe, it can cause widespread damage, including leveling entire buildings or neighborhoods. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses a tornado warning and tornado watch to alert communities about the occurrence of tornadoes in the area. It is essential to understand the difference between a tornado watch and warning and how to respond appropriately to each to stay safe.
A tornado watch implies that specific atmospheric conditions have combined to create a possibility of tornado formation in the area. During a tornado watch, individuals are advised to remain vigilant and pay attention to weather updates in case of a tornado warning. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado watch for particular places, generally those that are frequently affected by tornadoes from time to time. The weather service considers several weather patterns and atmospheric conditions, such as the presence of thunderstorms, high humidity, and high wind speeds.
Additionally, a tornado watch might last up to several hours until there is a reduction in the threat of tornadic activity. When there is an active tornado watch in the area, individuals should remain alert and have a safety plan in place. A safety plan must include identifying a good shelter, avoiding high locations or open spaces, and staying away from windows. People should also monitor weather radios, televisions, or radio stations for updates about weather conditions. It is also recommended to gather an emergency kit that will contain essential supplies such as water, batteries, flashlight, and a first aid kit if there is a need to evacuate.
On the other hand, a tornado warning is issued by the NWS to alert individuals about a tornado that has already developed in the area or is suspected to form. Unlike a tornado watch, a tornado warning only lasts for a short time, generally less than an hour. The service issues a warning when key indicators of a tornado, such as tornado debris, strong winds, or a funnel cloud formation, are observed. A tornado warning is a critical instruction, and people in the affected area are advised to take immediate action.
The warning means that a tornado is already present in the area, and individuals must take immediate action to protect themselves. People in the area should go to their designated safe zone or basement, if possible, and stay away from glass windows and doors. If there is no designated safe space, people should move to the lowest level of the building or a small interior room away from windows.
In conclusion, tornadoes are devastating weather phenomena that require individuals to be informed and take necessary precautions to stay safe. It is essential to distinguish between a tornado watch and tornado warning and understand what actions to take in each situation. A tornado watch means that storm conditions are prevalent and that a tornado could form. During a tornado watch, individuals should remain vigilant and prepare to take shelter. A tornado warning, on the other hand, means that a tornado has been observed, and individuals should immediately take shelter and act on their emergency plan. Overall, being aware of these differences and taking appropriate action could be the difference between life and death during a tornado.