Ask Joe – What is a difference between a watch, warning and advisory?

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Today’s question came from Christy. She wanted to know what is the difference between a watch, warning and advisory when it comes to types of severe weather. Here’s a simple way to look at it.

  • Watch – Means the potential for the type of severe weather is there. It’s like having all of the ingredients to a cake. We can get a cake, but other things need to happen. When a watch is issued, you should watch the situation and be prepared to take action if warranted.
  • Warning – Means the severe weather is happening or is about to happen. It’s time to take action. To get back to our baking correlation. It’s the cake or is the cake ready to come out of the oven.
  • Advisory – Means that disruptive weather is going to happen but will fall shy of the warning criteria. Instead of a cake, it’s a small cupcake or a cookie. The ingredients have come together, but just not quite in as large of a way as a warning would.

One of the things to keep in mind that it is incorrect to say or think that a watch was downgraded to an advisory. Remember a watch is only the potential for something to happen. An advisory means it will happen. Therefore, a watch should be looked at as upgraded to an advisory.

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