Tornado Watch or Warning? Why You Should Know the Difference

This past week, the Co-op learned a thing or two about the power of Mother Nature. On Monday night, an EF0 tornado accompanied by straight-line winds blew through Greenwood, causing damage, not only to homes and farms within the local community, but also to the Co-op’s headquarters. Winds gusting to 85 mph blew down the front fence, tore down trees, flipped two construction trailers, and severely damaged our wire warehouse.  Fortunately, the storm hit after regular working hours, so no Co-op employees were harmed during the storm. Still, crews were out all night, working hard to turn the lights back on to 2,000 homes in our service territory. By 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, all impacted homes had electric service restored. But, it got us thinking: How much do our members know about tornados?  We’ve put together some information to educate readers about the difference between a “watch” and a “warning,” what that means when it comes to tornados, and how you should respond in case either alert is issued in your area.

Watch v. Warning

We have all heard it: that sudden “beep… beep… beep” that usually interrupts the key plot twist of our favorite t.v. show. While it might seem like a nuisance, this alert system offered by the National Weather Service (NWS) saves lives. According to AccuWeather, watches are issued by NOAA’s storm prediction center when the conditions for severe weather are present, usually spanning a 25,000 square mile radius. But a watch doesn’t mean a life-threatening storm is imminent. It just means there is a possibility, and anyone in the area should remain vigilant of any worsening weather. Warnings, on the other hand, mean severe weather is definitely on its way, and members of the affected community should take the appropriate measures to keep themselves safe. Warnings are issued based on specific criteria, generally wind speeds and the amount of hail that might fall. If an alert for either a watch or warning pops up, don’t ignore it. Stay aware, and be prepared if the situation gets any worse.

Batten Down the Hatches: What to Do When a Warning is Issued

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Sussex County just before the tornado touched down on Monday night. Whether a tornado watch or warning is issued for your area, it’s imperative to have a plan for how to stay safe through the duration of the storm.

If a tornado watch is issued, the main objective is to stay informed. Keep an eye out for any updates on your television, smartphone, or computer, and keep your ears open for any news that might come over the radio.

If a warning is issued, you need to take immediate action.

In the home, the safest place to be is in a basement or cellar. If your home doesn’t have either of these, get to the lowest level of the house, preferably under a stairwell or in the most interior room, and cover your body with blankets and pillows for protection. Stay as far away as possible from any windows.

The same holds true if you find yourself in a store, school, or other public locations. Refrain from using the elevators in such an event. If you live in a mobile home and have time to get out, evacuate to a more secure shelter.  

Being outdoors when a warning is issued presents a unique set of challenges. In this situation, find a secure shelter, such as the cellar or basement mentioned before. If that is impossible, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on. Lower your head so it is beneath the windows, and preferably, cover it with a blanket or pillow.

DEC Cares About Our Members

The events of this past week have definitely brought tornado awareness and safety to the forefront of Co-op employees’ minds. We hope the information provided here will help you understand and be more prepared for future severe-weather situations. Stay safe. Stay secure. Stay storm-ready.

For more information on tornados and how to be prepared in case one touches down in your area, visit the National Weather Service website.

An EF0 tornado uprooted a treenear the Co-op headquarters in Greenwood.