Tornado watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service or the National Severe Storms Lab, which constantly monitor atmospheric conditions over the United States. They cannot be issued by other agencies or private weather services.
A TORNADO WATCH means that conditions are favorable for producing a particular weather event, but that it has not formed yet. Watches alert the public that they need to pay closer attention than usual to the weather, just to be safe. A tornado watch is issued when atmospheric conditions could cause tornadoes to form, although none have formed yet.
A TORNADO WARNING means that a particular weather event has formed and that it threatens the area under the warning. A tornado warning means that a tornado is actually present and moving in the warn vicinity. Residents should take immediate shelter in a tornado warning.
Return to Intellectual Ways of Knowing and Learning About Tornadoes.