When severe weather threatens NW Arkansas and the River Valley, the National Weather Service may issue various tornado alerts. Here is a look at what they all mean and what you need to do when they are issued for your area.

Tornado Watches

Example of a tornado watch over Louisiana and Mississippi on April 23, 2021.

A tornado watch may be issued over a large area when conditions are starting to come together for tornado development. If under a tornado watch, you will want to do the follow:

  1. Monitor the weather conditions in and around your area.
  2. Review your tornado action plan with your family and identify where the nearest tornado safe place.

Tornado Warnings

There are many different tags the National Weather Service can use for tornado warnings, depending on if the tornado was spotted or radar-indicated. Regardless of the warning tag, all tornado warnings mean the same thing – seek shelter immediately! A tornado is either occurring or imminent. The difference may be in the text of the warning.

Radar-Indicated Tornado Warning

A radar-indicated tornado warning in Denton Co. Texas on April 23, 2021 (just north of Dallas, TX).

A radar-indicated tornado warning is issued when radar software at the National Weather Service detects a possible tornadic circulation. The software notifies the forecaster of the storm, which allows them to analyze the situation and decide whether a warning is necessary.

Observed Tornado Warning

A tornado warning with an “observed tornado” tag over north-central Texas on April 23, 2021.

Tornado warnings will include an “observed tag” when the National Weather Service has received confirmation of a tornado on the ground. Tornadoes are often reported by trained spotters or law enforcement/emergency management officials. The general public can also send reports to the National Weather Service through the NWS website.

Considerable Tornado Warning

A tornado warning with a “considerable” tag just south of Amarillo, TX on March 13, 2021.

A “considerable” tornado tag is used when a strong tornado is likely on the ground and significant damage is likely.

Tornado Emergency

A tornado emergency just outside of Birmingham, Alabama on March 25, 2021.

A tornado emergency tag will be issued when a strong, violent tornado is on the ground and heading towards a highly-populated area. This is the rarest type of tornado warning and is only used in situations where a significant loss to life and property is very likely.

While there may be different kinds of tornado warnings, they all have one thing in common. A tornado is imminent or occurring. Anyone inside the warning polygon needs to take immediate shelter by going to the lowest level, most interior room possible.

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