Levels of alert: The difference between a hurricane watch and warning

A NESDIS satellite image of Hurricane Lane near Hawaii in August 2018, provided by NOAA.
A NESDIS satellite image of Hurricane Lane near Hawaii in August 2018, provided by NOAA.(NOAA)
Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 1:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With almost all weather events, there are different levels of alerts issued by forecasters. Knowing the difference between these alert levels can cut down on confusion and reduce panic.

When hurricane activity is detected, and it begins to appear that the Hawaiian islands could be impacted by severe weather, forecasters will issue a either a watch or a warning, depending on the severity of the approaching storm.

A tropical storm watch indicates that tropical storm conditions ― sustained winds between 39 and 73 miles per hour ― are possible within the next 48 hours for any area within the scope of the watch.

Tropical storm warnings are issued when those same conditions are expected to hit within the alert area over the course of the next 36 hours.

Hurricane advisories work much the same way. A hurricane watch is issued when winds 74 miles per hour or stronger are possible within 48 hours, while forecasters will declare a hurricane warning when those conditions are expected within 36 hours.

In coastal areas, storm surge watches and warnings are also possible. Those advisories are issued when there is “a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline” during storm situations and follow the same criteria that hurricane and tropical storm advisories do.

For more information on watches or warnings, including a map of any active alerts that could impact the Hawaiian islands, click here to visit the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

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