WeatherWeather Blog


Severe Weather Awareness Week: How to know when severe weather is headed your way, and what action to take

Severe Weather wisconsin
Posted at 6:15 AM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 07:15:27-04

Are you ready for severe weather season?

Spring is in the air, and that means storm season is just around the corner. April 12 through April 16 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

All week we will be posting information on the TMJ4 Weather Blog, onsocial media, and sharing information on-air to help you get ready for severe weather season.

First, let's talk about the difference between a Watch and a Warning. These terms often get confused.


Watches are issued in advance of severe weather - before it starts. A watch will get issued where there is high confidence that severe weather will occur in a certain area. Watches are generally issued for a fairly large area and are issued 2-6 hours ahead of severe weather.

Think of the Watch as - we are "watching" the potential for severe weather. If a watch is issued for your location, it means to keep a close eye on the weather. Plans may need to be adjusted to account for storms.

Check in regularly so you know what is happening and if storms are moving your way. If strong thunderstorms are expected, the NWS will generally issue either a Severe Thunderstorm Watch or a Tornado Watch. A Tornado Watch is issued if the National Weather Service has a high confidence of tornadoes occurring. Other hazards are possible as well, including damaging winds, hail, and heavy rain. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued if hail or winds are the primary threat, although tornadoes could still happen.

A Warning is issued when severe weather is imminent. Warnings are issued anywhere from 0-45 minutes ahead of severe weather hitting a particular location. Warnings are much more targeted in areas, usually for a particular storm cell, or group of cells. When a Warning is issued for your location, it's time to act! This is the time to get to your safe place. If it's a Tornado Warning, head to the basement or the lowest area you can find, or an interior room or closet.

For a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, it's a good idea to head to the basement. Certainly, stay away from windows and doors. And DON'T go outside to take pictures or a video! A picture is not worth risking your safety!

Here's one more way you can remember the difference between a watch and a warning... cookies! The Watch is issued when we have all the ingredients for severe weather, but they haven't come together yet. The Watch is all the individual ingredients, sitting out on the kitchen counter. The Warning comes when those ingredients have come together and created a severe storm. This is the cookie!


Next, and don't miss this, you need to have multiple ways to get the above information! Watches and warnings don't do you any good if you never get the information. There are SO many ways to get this information, but you must be proactive.

One of the best ways to be alerted to watch and warning info is through a NOAA Weather Radio. If you don't have one, get one. NOAA weather radios can save your life. Period. These devices will wake you up from a hard sleep to alert you of an incoming tornado. Or alert you if you aren't near your phone. Or if you're in the shower. Or anywhere. If a tornado alert is issued for the county you live in, this device will let you know. This is your chance to head to a safe place. Find more information on NOAA Weather Radios through this link from the Milwaukee National Weather Service.

Your cell phone is another great way to get information. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will let you know if a Tornado Warning is issued for your location. Make sure your WEA setting is turned ON in your phone settings. Also, you can download a radar app or news app that will send you push alerts when watches and warnings are issued. You can set this up with the FREE StormShield App. Also, you can use social media to collect information, just make sure the info is current and from a trustworthy source, like the National Weather Service, or a local meteorologist or TV Station.

Television is another good option to collect information about severe weather. Local stations will run crawls with watch and warning information, and if the weather is bad enough, we will break into programming to cover the storms. It's always a good idea to stay current on the local forecast to know when severe weather may happen, so you have a heads up that storms are possible.

When you are outdoors, sirens MAY alert you of an incoming storm or tornado. HOWEVER, it depends on where you live - and how close you are to a siren. ***Do not rely on sirens to alert you of an incoming tornado.​​​​*** Sirens are only designed to alert people who are outdoors, within a short distance of the siren.


Don't put off getting ready for severe weather season. Be sure to look for tomorrow's weather blog, where we will discuss the different categories of Storm Prediction Center severe weather outlooks, along with a closer look at severe storms that impact Wisconsin.

Also, join us on Facebook Live all week at 10 am and 7 pm for the opportunity to chat about severe weather with Storm Team 4.

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