Severe Weather Terminology

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM - A thunderstorm is considered severe when it produces any of the following: Hail 3/4" (penny size) or larger in diameter, winds which equal or exceed 58 MPH, or a tornado.

FUNNEL CLOUD - A funnel shaped cloud, usually extending from a convective cloud, which is associated with a violently rotating column of air that is NOT in contact with the ground.

TORNADO - A violently rotating column of air that extends from a convective cloud and is in contact with the ground. The entire column of air associated with a tornado is not always visible. A tornado may only be visible once it has picked up enough dirt and debris.

FLASH FLOOD - A rapid rise in water that occurs with little or no advanced warning, usually as the result of intense rainfall over a relatively small area in a short amount of time. Flash Floods can also be caused by dam or levee failures, ice jams, and topography.

HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK-A product which is issued daily, highlighting any potential significant weather in the area for the next 7 days.

WATCH - Issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather in and close to the watch area. The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation and is usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. During the watch, people should review severe weather safety rules and be prepared to move to a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

WARNING - Issued when severe weather is detected by radar or reported by storm spotters. Information in this warning will include the location of the storm, what areas will be affected, and the primary threat associated with the storm. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Remember that severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Warnings can be issued without a watch already in effect.

SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT - A product issued which provides follow-up information on any severe weather warnings in effect and conditions which have occurred or are occurring. This information includes updated storm paths and any storm reports, such as hail size or damage, received from spotters.

FLASH FLOOD WATCH - Issued to indicate current or developing hydrologic conditions that are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area. When a watch is issued, be aware of any potential flood hazards. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take quick action if a Flash Flood Warning is issued or flooding is observed.

FLASH FLOOD WARNING - Issued when flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Those in the affected area should evacuate immediately or move to higher ground if possible. Information in this warning will include the locations in the flood and any areas which may be impacted. Flash Flood Warnings can be issued without a Flash Flood Watch in effect.