This has been Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina (February 27 – March 5).
What in the world is severe weather anyway? The National Weather Service gives specific definitions for lots of conditions that constitute severe weather, such as thunderstorms and tornados:

Severe Thunderstorm:

A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph, and/or hail at least 1″ in diameter.

Do you know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning?

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: usually issued before severe thunderstorms have developed, when conditions in the atmosphere favor development of organized or relatively widespread severe thunderstorms.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: severe weather is either occurring or will occur within a specified time (usually within 60 minutes) within one or several counties.


A violently rotating column of air, hanging down from a cumuliform cloud (cloud with vertical development in the form of rising mound, dome, or tower) or underneath a cumuliform cloud. Tornadoes are often visible as a funnel cloud, but not always.

Do you know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Watches are normally issued for 4 – 6 hours, and include many counties. If you are in or near the tornado watch area, stay informed via NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television. Keep your eye on the sky, and be prepared to take cover at short notice, as tornadoes can occur with little or no warning.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted, or a developing tornado is reported by trained spotters or indicated on Doppler radar. A warning is typically issued for a small area for less than an hour. If a tornado warning is issued for your area…take cover immediately!

The more you understand severe weather, the better prepared you can be when it strikes. Visit the National Weather Service for more information.