Weekend Weather Blog: What’s the difference between an outlook and a weather alert?

The difference is more important than you think
Lightning at Johnson County Executive Airport
Lightning at Johnson County Executive Airport(KCTV5 News)
Published: May. 28, 2022 at 3:25 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Over the past couple of days, the weather has been pretty active. We’ve seen mainly showers and thunderstorms, and the ingredients were there for some potentially severe thunderstorms on Friday.

Notice that, in the tweet above, there’s a dark green area covering parts of the KMVT viewing area. This dark green area is called a Marginal Risk of severe thunderstorms. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to explain what all of the severe weather risks mean - that explanation can be found of the Weekend Weather Blog I did back on April 16.

This blog post is meant to explain the differences between an outlook like this, and a watch, warning, or advisory. Now, all of the colors can be confusing, and it may appear that there is a weather alert in place on the above image.

However, this is very different than a weather alert. The below tweet is an example of a weather alert:

This was a Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued back on May 2. Now obviously, the colors, in each of these tweets are very different, but that’s not the only difference.

When severe weather risks are in place, it means that weather patterns are indicating the potential of thunderstorms becoming severe, usually hours later in the day. When the region gets places under a severe weather risk, people need to keep an eye to the sky, but can also go about their daily business.

Watches are when things start to get a bit iffy. When a watch is in place, it means the ingredients are there for thunderstorms to initiate and become severe within an hour or so.

When it comes to severe thunderstorms, watches are rarely ever issued here in southern Idaho, but there are two specific ones that need to be looked out for - a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, and a Tornado Watch. Below is an example of a severe weather watch in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland:

When a watch is issued, it’s time to start preparing. have a plan on where to go if a warning is issued. While there may not be severe weather currently happening, you need to remain alert for rapidly changing weather conditions. Stay tuned to a weather information source, and listen for possible warnings down the road.

And of course, there’s warnings. Warnings are issued when severe weather is happening, and are issued for segments of counties. If you get placed under a warning, you need to put your plan in action - take cover and do anything you can to protect your property and your life.

At the end of the day, severe weather outlooks can be helpful, but they also don’t mean severe weather will happen. It certainly doesn’t mean that severe weather is happening. It’s best to get your weather information from trusted meteorologists who know what they’re talking about as well. This means staying tuned to KMVT, or following our three meteorologists on social media.

The National Weather Service is also a great resource for weather information. If you live in Twin Falls, Jerome, and Gooding counties, your National Weather Service office is located in Boise. You can follow them on Twitter by clicking here.

If you live in Blaine, Cassia, Minidoka, or Lincoln counties, your National Weather Service office is located in Pocatello. You can follow them on Twitter by clicking here.

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