Watches, Warnings and Advisories…What Do They Mean?

They say in life there are only two things you can count on – death and taxes. Let’s add a third item to that list – changing weather. If there’s one thing year’s of following and reporting on the weather has taught me, it’s that you can always count on it to change. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes quickly. But always changing.

This constant state of change can create confusion especially during winter when watches, warnings and advisories pop up quite frequently.

Ever wondered what they mean?

Well, we found an excellent explanation online posted by Wayne Mahar of

No matter what the actual weather you are dealing is, here is the basic rule of thumb:

WATCH essentially means a chance this condition will happen and usually covers a large geographical area for a lengthy time period.

WARNING means the said weather is already occurring or is likely to occur and to take proper protective measures. Warnings are usually issued for much smaller geographical areas and usually for shorter more definite time periods.

ADVISORIES are sort of in between a WATCH and WARNING. The expected weather condition has a pretty good chance of occurring, even a likely chance of occurring, but typically an advisory is used for less severe type of weather conditions. A Wind Advisory might be issued or a Freezing Rain Advisory issued instead of a High Wind Warning or an ice Storm Warning.

To learn more about specific distinctions between various types of weather alerts visit the National Weather Service online at

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