DENVER (CBS4) – It’s Severe Weather Awareness Week across Colorado!

This is a great time to review important information and safety tips to make sure you and your family are weather ready before storm season ramps up in the weeks ahead.

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Today’s message is understanding the difference between a watch and a warning issued by the National Weather Service.


When any type of a weather watch is issued it simply means just what it implies; to watch the skies and pay close attention to the weather, especially over the next six hours, because things could rapidly change.

During the warm season the most common watches in Colorado include Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado and Flash Flood Watches.

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 grow quickly.

Severe weather watches are normally issued for large areas and typically includes multiple counties and sometimes even portions of multiple states.

Weather Watch Explainer


A warning has more urgency and means that a weather hazard is either occurring or will occur very soon.

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


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

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    • 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


When it’s windy, hot and dry you may also see red flag warnings issued for high fire danger.

Watch and warning information is distributed to the media and the public through the National Weather Service.

There are four offices that forecast for Colorado.

Each office and their counties of responsibility 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, Colorado’s Weather Center and CBS4 will get the information broadcast on-air and online as soon as possible.

But in the event of a power loss, it’s good to have a second source for weather information, such as a battery operated NOAA weather radio.

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Meteorologist Chris Spears writes about stories related to weather and climate in Colorado. Check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.