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Don’t Be Caught Off Guard: Understand Severe Weather Watches & Warnings

Colorado Severe Weather Awareness Week Is April 13-19
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Chris Spears By Chris Spears
CBS4 Meteorologist
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It’s hard to believe that severe weather season is literally around the corner, especially since it was just in the teens and low 20s with snow!

But we’re rapidly approaching the warmer, more humid days when afternoon thunderstorms can quickly turn severe and potentially dangerous.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

This week is dedicated to creating awareness about severe weather in Colorado, starting with knowing the difference between a watch and a warning.

WATCHES

A watch simply means just what it implies; to watch the weather, especially over the next six hours.

During the warm season, the most common watches you can expect to see in Colorado include severe thunderstorm, tornado and flash flood.

You may also see fire weather watches during the spring and summer when there is a risk for weather conditions that would allow wildfires to develop and spread quickly.

Severe weather watches are normally issued for large areas and typically includes multiple counties or even multiple states within a region.

WARNINGS

When a severe weather threat becomes more imminent, a warning is issued. This means that the danger is either occurring or will occur very soon.

Warnings are typically issued for much smaller areas, often a specific part of your county, or sometimes, multiple counties.

Colorado is divided in 64 counties. If you are new to the state, before severe weather season strikes, be sure to take a little time to learn which counties are near you.

Some of the most common types of severe weather warnings you will see during the spring and summer months include…

  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – issued for a storm that will produce hail of one inch diameter or larger, and/or wind gusts of 58 miles per hour or higher
  • Tornado Warning – issued when a tornado is imminent or occurring
  • Flash Flood Warning – issued for a rapidly developing flood that is life threatening

From time to time you may also see red flag warnings for high fire danger.

WHO ISSUES WATCHES, WARNINGS

Severe thunderstorm and tornado watches in the United States are created by the Storms Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Once a watch is issued, the information is sent out to the media and the public through the local National Weather Service office in your area.

All other types of watches, and all warnings, are issued by your local National Weather Service office.

Four offices of the National Weather Service forecast for Colorado. Each office and the counties they are responsible for follow …

  • Boulder NWS Office:  Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Jefferson, Larimer, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Park, Phillips, Sedgwick, Summit, Washington, Weld
  • Goodland NWS Office:  Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Yuma
  • Grand Junction NWS Office:  Archuleta, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Juan, San Miguel
  • Pueblo NWS Office:  Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, El Paso, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Lake, Las Animas, Mineral, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, Teller
(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

When severe weather strikes, the Colorado Weather Center at CBS4 will get the information broadcast on-air and online as soon as possible once it is received from the National Weather Service.

In the event the weather is changing so fast at your location that you lose power, it’s also good to have a second source for warning information that is battery operated, such as a NOAA weather radio.

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