What is the difference between a 'watch' and a 'warning' when it comes to severe weather? Here is why you should care.

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BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. (WDTV) - Severe weather becomes increasingly likely in April for the Mountain State. You should know the difference between watches and warnings so you can act accordingly when each is issued. A 'watch' means that severe weather may develop and a 'warning' means that severe weather is imminent or occurring.

In terms of severe thunderstorms, there are 2 types of watches. The first, and most common is the 'Severe Thunderstorm Watch'. Less common, but certainly not rare for our area is the 'Tornado Watch'.

Let's review what makes a thunderstorm severe.
1. If it produces wind gusts of 58 miles per hour or more,
2. If it produces hail 1" diameter or greater, or
3. If it produces a tornado.

Most thunderstorms produce strong winds and hail is also frequently produced. It is for this reason that most of the 'watches' that come out are Severe Thunderstorm Watches.

When thunderstorms are at a risk to produce tornadoes, a Tornado Watch can be issued. This is the case when the air in which thunderstorms form produces rotating thunderstorms (rotating thunderstorms can concentrate the overall rotation into a tornado). When the wind direction turns clockwise with increasing altitude and speeds up considerably, rotating thunderstorms (supercells) can form.

The main idea behind a watch is this:
Severe weather MAY DEVELOP. So, be prepared.

Watches usually encompass 20 to 30 counties and last for 6 to 8 hours. They take up large portions of states.

If severe thunderstorms develop, a 'warning' is issued.

The main idea behind a 'warning' is this:
Severe weather is IMMINENT or OCCURRING. Put your severe weather plan of action into effect.

'Warnings' usually cover portions of several counties and last 30 to 45 minutes.

Coming up on 5News at 6 on Tuesday, March 21st, we'll be talking about what you should do if a severe thunderstorm warning, tornado warning, or flash flood warning is issued for your area.