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Understanding Severe Weather Terms

A Red Flag Warning was in effect earlier this week for most of Nebraska as high winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour and higher than average temperatures were predicted throughout the state. What is a Red Flag Warning? It is a phenomenon where weather factors such as wind and temperature provide for a high risk of fire danger. A wildfire may spread quickly in these conditions, so outdoor burning is not advised. It is used to alert safety officials and firefighters of potentially dangerous fire conditions.

There are other terms that people should brush up on as spring moves into summer and our weather becomes more erratic. The National Weather Service issues various watches and warnings during severe weather season.

Warning – Any warning such as a flood warning or a tornado warning means that event is imminent. It is going to occur, so take the appropriate measures to protect lives and property. Warnings are usually issued for a short duration and for specific areas.

Tornado Warning – This means that a tornado is either on the ground or has been detected by radar in the affected area. Take cover immediately.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning- This warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is imminent with winds of 58 miles per hour or greater and/or hail one inch in diameter or greater. Again, a warning of this type is an alert to take cover immediately.

Watch – A watch such as a flood watch or a tornado watch means that conditions are conducive to these events. People need to be aware of the potential hazards of these events and consider what steps they need to take to protect lives and property. Watches are issued for four to eight hours and are usually well in advance of severe weather but not always. The watch will usually be issued for a larger area than a warning. Those working outside or sponsoring/participating in outdoor events and activities will want to keep a close watch on weather conditions.

Tornado Watch – This means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. None have been confirmed, but people need to be aware they are a possibility. Again, those working outside or sponsoring/participating in outdoor events and activities will want to keep a close watch on the weather.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – This term is used when severe thunderstorms are possible with winds of 58 miles per hour and/or hail with one inch or greater diameter possible. The watch will usually be issued for a larger area than a warning to alert people to be aware of the weather.

Wind Advisory – This term is used when the wind is expected to blow at 31 to 39 miles per hour or more and/or with wind gusts of 46-57 miles per hour for any duration.

Heat Advisory – A heat advisory is issued when the heat index value is expected to reach 100-104 degrees.

Lives depend on the actions taken as a result of a weather watch, warning, or advisory. Be aware of the weather service announcements and take appropriate action to stay safe this severe weather season.

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