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Watch and Warnings: What do they Mean?

The week of May 4 - May 10 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in the Pacific Northwest, including the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

This is an excellent time for all individuals, families, businesses, schools, radio and television stations to review their spring and summer storm preparedness plans. It is especially important for new arrivals to the Pacific Northwest to become familiar with NOAA's National Weather Service Watch and Warning definitions, and their safety procedures.
Near Warden, WA.

Each day, a new topic will be discussed, along with new informational links:
Intro May 5 May 6 May 7 May 8 May 9 May 10


During Severe Weather Awareness Week...the National Weather Service reminds you of how we serve to protect and inform you, and what actions you should take when severe weather threatens.

National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters know when weather conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. When these conditions are expected or occurring...the NWS will issue OUTLOOKS...WATCHES and WARNINGS to inform you of the threat. A suite of National Weather Service messages serves to heighten your awareness and alert you to actions you can take as the severe weather threat nears your location.

The National Weather Service uses a three tier approach to alert the public for the potential for severe weather. This three tier approach consists of OUTLOOKS, WATCHES and WARNINGS.


Everyday, NWS forecasters in the Pacific Northwest assess the chance for severe weather. A hazardous weather outlook is issued to alert people when conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop within the next few days.


A Severe Weather Watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes to develop. A watch is usually issued for large areas involving many counties. It heightens your awareness of the possibility of severe weather in the next several hours. If you are in the area covered by a watch, continue with your normal activities, but at the same time make a plan where you would go for shelter if severe weather were to strike suddenly. If high winds is a primary threat, tying down or bringing loose objects indoors is a good idea.


A Severe Weather Warning is an urgent message to tell you that severe weather is imminent or occurring . Warnings are usually for small areas, part of a county, or a county or two at a time. A severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is usually in effect for 30 minutes to one hour. Your immediate action is necessary if you are in the path of the storm.

In times of severe weather, you can get all these vital National Weather Service messages on NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio. Many weather radio receivers have a built in tone alarm, that is activated by the National Weather Service when watches and warnings are issued. you can also get weather information, based on national weather service products, from your local radio or television stations or from our web page at

Public information statements will be issued throughout the week to give safety information, and help you know how to respond when severe weather threatens.

Additional information can also be found on the web at:

    Additional Links of Interest...
  1. NOAA's Weather Safety website
  2. Preparedness for Severe Weather
  3. Northwest Geographic Coordination Center
  4. Oregon Department of Forestry
  5. National Interagency Fire Center
  6. NOAA's Lightning Safety website
  7. Each local office may have photographs online ( see office links below )

Remember, in times of severe weather, you can get all these vital NOAA/National Weather Service messages via NOAA Weather Radio, your favorite local media, or through NOAA's National Weather Service websites.

For questions about local Severe Weather Preparedness, contact your local NOAA National Weather Service Office:
local office contact by email contact by phone
Medford Ryan Sandler 541-773-1067
Seattle Ted Buehner 206-526-6087
Spokane Andrew Brown 509-244-6395
Pendleton Dennis Hull 541-276-4493
Portland Tyree Wilde 503-261-9246
Boise Jay Breidenbach 208-334-9861
Pocatello Vern Preston 208-233-0834
Missoula Marty Whitmore 406-329-4840

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Portland Weather Forecast Office
5241 NE 122nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97230-1089

Tel: (503) 261-9246

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