Weather Watches and Warnings

When a hurricane makes landfall, many watches and warnings can be issued throughout the duration of the storm. The general difference between watches and warnings are that watches mean conditions are favorable for dangerous weather to happen so they are "watching" for them; whereas warnings mean that conditions are happening now or soon and you should seek protection.

There are many watches and warnings that can occur during a hurricane. The storm can produce tornadoes and flooding rains, storm surge along the coast, and high winds along the coast and inland. Hurricane watches and warnings are defined below:

  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: Hurricane/Tropical Storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: Hurricane/Tropical Storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. Hunker down!


  • The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center for Hurricane Irene on August 25, 2011 at 11pm. This
    figure shows hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings by coloring the coastline. It also shows
    the forecasted track for the CENTER of the storm. As these storm systems can be quite large, the impacts of
    a storm are much wider than shown with the forecasted track. Image courtesy of NOAA.

    The more you know:
    Hurricane and Tropical Storm watches and warnings are given by the National Hurricane Center. All other land-based watches are given by the Storm Prediction Center (Norman, OK) and the local National Weather Service gives all other warnings.



    For active watches and warnings year around:

    National Weather Service

    Weather Underground

    The Weather Channel

    For more information, please visit:

    USA Today Article - What watches and warnings mean

    Tropical Cyclone Watches and Warnings Information