Watch vs. Warning: Storm risk for severe weather


CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Severe Weather Awareness Week continues Monday in the Mountain State.

As strong storms and severe weather move into the region this Spring and Summer, what exactly do we have to look out for when Mother Nature comes our way.

First, we have to take a look at our risk factors.

The Storm Prediction Center of the National Weather Service has multiple categories in which they determine our localized storm risk.

This organization looks at meteorological ingredients, like storm set-up in the upper atmosphere, moisture, temperature, and storm uplift among other things, to make a decision on what the dangers are for Mountaineers being impacted by severe weather.

The scale goes from zero to five; zero meaning that no severe weather is expected and five meaning that widespread and intense severe thunderstorms are expected.

This looks at the potential for hailstones greater than one inch in diameter, strong and damaging wind gusts over 50 MPH, as well as the potential for tornadoes.

When the ingredients for severe weather set up just right, a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch is issued.

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for storms to become strong and produce tornadoes. Similar to baking a cake, it is just like having your sugar, butter, and flour ready to go to get it in the oven.

When the cake is done, that means that the ingredients are ready to become something bigger, and in this case, more dangerous than before. This is when a Tornado Warning is issued.

A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted by a trained storm spotter or has been detected by radar.

Also, the statewide Tornado Drill for West Virginia that was slated for 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17th was canceled.

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