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How to Make Sense of Watches and Warnings

12:07 AM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- When the weather turns nasty, do you know what to do?

The National Weather Service wants everyone in the DC Metro area to be ready for the upcoming severe weather season. 

Weather watches and warnings are the most important thing they do, so they want to make sure that everyone is getting the messages when they need them.

Chris Strong is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the NWS office in Sterling VA.

He says, "Weather can strike at any time, so people need to have a few different ways to get weather information immediately".

This was especially evident last June, when a Derecho moved through the area. It caught a lot of people by surprise, even though the Weather Service posted severe thunderstorm watches several hours in advance.

"We had a severe thunderstorm watch out at 6:30 that evening, and we were issuing warnings for the DC area around 10:00 or so," Steve Zubrick, the Science & Operations Officer for the office said.

He added that this amount of warning time is usually sufficient to keep people informed and safe. However, the general public doesn't always know how to react to weather watches. Weather warnings, on the other hand, are more easily understood.

The NWS breaks it down like this: A watch means to proceed with caution, but a warning is the time to take action. This is the case for any type of dangerous weather-- thunderstorms, heat waves, even winter weather.

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