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Summer Weather Terms

Know the weather terms!
It is very important to understand the difference between a severe weather WATCH and WARNING. WATCHES and WARNINGS are issued for Tornadoes, Severe Thunderstorms, and Flash Floods. The term WATCH implies that people should be alert for the possibility of severe weather or flash flooding, and have a plan of action in case a storm threatens. When a WARNING is issued by the National Weather Service, this means that a tornado, severe thunderstorm, or flash flood has been detected by radar or observed by trained storm spotters or public officials. These warnings are for short-fuse events that only last an hour or so. People in the path of the storm are expected to take action to protect life and property when the term WARNING is heard.

The following is a list of watches/warnings/statements that the NWS issues and the criteria used for issuing them:

TORNADO WATCH Conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually in effect for several hours, with 6 hours being the most common.

TORNADO WARNING Tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by storm spotters. The warning will include where the tornado is and what towns will be in its path.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually in effect for several hours, with 6 hours being the most common.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING Issued when a thunderstorm produces hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds which equal or exceed 58 mph. Severe thunderstorms can result in the loss of life and/or property. Information in this warning includes: where the storm is, what towns will be affected, and the primary threat associated with the storm.

SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT Issued when the forecaster wants to follow up a warning with important information on the progress of severe weather elements.

FLASH FLOOD WATCH Indicates that flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take quick action if a flash flood warning is issued or flooding is observed.

FLASH FLOOD WARNING Signifies a dangerous situation where rapid flooding of small rivers, streams, creaks, or urban areas are imminent or already occurring. Very heavy rain that falls in a short time period can lead to flash flooding, depending on local terrain, ground cover, degree of urbanization, degree of man-made changes to river banks, and initial ground or river conditions.

Alerts the public to flooding which is generally only an inconvenience and does not pose a threat to life and/or property. Issued when heavy rain will cause flooding of streets and low-lying places in urban areas, or if small rural or urban streams are expected to reach or exceed bankfull.

Used as a follow-up to Flash Flood Warnings and Watches. The statement will contain the latest information on the event.

Issued to convey update information about severe weather watches.

A short term forecast designed to give specific, detailed forecast information for the next 1 to 6 hours on a county-by-county basis. Both routine and near-severe information are contained in these forecasts which are routinely issued several times per day, and more often during busy weather periods.

Contact Us

Burleigh County Emergency Management
4200 Coleman St
Bismarck, ND 58503
Phone: (701) 222-6727

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