Severe Weather Watches and Warnings Definitions

As a reminder, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 in the Northern Hemisphere. Windstorm is the second highest cause of property loss after fire. Recent severe windstorms have proven that buildings and roofs designed to proper standards are capable of withstanding these storms with minimal damage. Loss experience has shown buildings that are not designed to these same standards sustained significant to heavy damage.

Floods and other natural perils also cause major property damage each year. The following are definitions of Severe Weather Watches and Warnings provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

Flood Watch: High flow or overflow of water from a river is possible in the given time period. It can also apply to heavy runoff or drainage of water into low-lying areas. These watches are generally issued for flooding that is expected to occur at least 6 hours after heavy rains have ended.

Flood Warning: Flooding conditions are actually occurring or are imminent in the warning area.

Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible in or close to the watch area. Flash Flood Watches are generally issued for flooding that is expected to occur within 6 hours after heavy rains have ended.

Flash Flood Warning: Flash flooding is actually occurring or imminent in the warning area. It can be issued as a result of torrential rains, a dam failure, or ice jam.

Tornado Watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has actually been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: A severe thunderstorm has actually been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.

Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions with sustained winds from 39 to 73 mph are possible in the watch area within the next 36 hours.

Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area within the next 24 hours.

Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds greater than 73 mph) are possible in the watch area within 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area in 24 hours or less.

For more information on hurricane categories and what applicable loss prevention services Risk Logic can provide, check out our July 1999 What's New Article "Hurricanes and Severe Windstorms" and other related pages.

For more information on the various storm and severe weather warnings, visit www.fema.gov.