Winter Storm Watch vs. Winter Storm Warning: What’s the Difference?
As Winter Storm Harpur arrives in New York and Pennsylvania, the National Weather Service in Binghamton has issued a Winter Storm Warning for entire Southern Tier area from the afternoon hours of Saturday, January 19, 2019, to the early evening hours of Sunday, January 20, 2019. But what does that mean? What is the difference between a watch and a warning and why does it matter?
According to Weather Works, a WATCH means that conditions are perfect for dangerous weather. In other words, a WATCH means WATCH out for what the weather could do and be prepared for the chance that some crazy stuff might go down. For events that come and go quickly like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or flash floods- a WATCH means that the odds are good for some pretty dangerous weather, but it’s the elements aren't happening yet. For longer events like hurricanes or winter storms, a WATCH means that the storm isn’t an immediate threat but could become one quickly and so you should prepare by stocking up on water, food, blankets and you should also know what to do if the WATCH turns into a WARNING.
On the other hand, Weather Works explains that a WARNING means that dangerous weather is happening right now, right where you are. For severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, a WARNING means things are nasty and it's all going down right this second. A winter storm WARNING means- don’t even think about leaving your house/business/school wherever because it’s not safe to go outside. If you’re traveling when a WARNING is issued, you need to not try to fight the storm, but instead, find a place to hang out until the worst of it is over.
How to Remember the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning
I always associate a watch with keeping an eye on things (you know, you watch things with your eyes). A warning has an "i" which can stand for "imminent" or "is" happening right now.