Knowing when severe weather is about to hit is crucial, and that includes knowing the difference between a watch and a warning — two words that sound and look similar, but mean a world of difference when weather's headed your way.
A severe thunderstorm watch or a tornado watch means weather conditions are right for one of these storms to develop. Continue to monitor the weather for any changes.
A severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning means a severe storm or tornado is going to hit, and it's time to take cover immediately, especially if it's a tornado.
The average warning time for a tornado is 13 minutes, which isn't much time to get to a basement, interior bathroom, closet or somewhere else safe.
Severe weather watches and warnings are issued by the Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service .
Those alerts are then relayed in a number of ways.
The most sure-fire way to get watches and warnings as soon as they're issued is through smartphone weather apps like Storm Shield .
NOAA weather radios do the same thing, but they're not something everyone carries with them.
If you're at home, TV and radio broadcast stations will also cut into programming when life-threatening weather develops.
And if all else fails, tornado sirens will sometimes sound off, but when and why the sirens go off varies in different communities.