Part of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts and to share that information and knowledge with others. They issue weather alerts to help save your life, but you need to know how to interpret watches and warnings so you know what you need to do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
You may receive a weather alert on the radio, on the TV, a website or through a smartphone app, but what does it mean?
Severe Weather Watches
When widespread severe weather is possible across North Carolina, the National Weather Service will issue a watch.
“A watch means conditions are ripe for something,” said Frank McKay, Richmond County Emergency Management director. “A watch is a ‘heads-up.’ Something may happen.”
Watches are issued for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and floods. As storms develop, they could become life threatening and damaging. Watches are intended to raise situational awareness allowing you time to prepare.
When a watch is issued, remain alert to approaching storms. Conditions can change quickly, and the watch may escalate to a warning.
Severe Weather Warnings
“A warning means something is imminent or happening,” explained McKay. “It means you better act quickly. In the case of a tornado, if there is a warning it means a tornado has been detected or seen.”
Warnings indicate an immediate threat to property, sometimes even life. When warnings are issued you should have a high awareness of the danger and enact your safety plan if threatened.
Receiving Warning Information
Warnings are transmitted via NOAA weather radio as well as by local television stations. Most North Carolina residents receive their warning information through television and radio. With the expansion of text messaging and smartphones, many warning services and weather feeds are available from a number of companies in the public and private sector for little to no cost. staying plugged in to weather for Richmond County is becoming easier and easier.
NOAA Weather Radio
NOAA weather radio remains one of the best ways to receive warnings at night. NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. NOAA weather radio broadcasts official weather service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24/7.
You can purchase a weather radio at any electronics store.
“Everyone should have one,” recommended McKay. “It’s an excellent device. It’s much like a pager except it plugs into the household current and has a back-up battery.”
Just like a smoke alarm, the weather radio must be maintained and can mean the difference between life and death. McKay said places like schools and nursing homes are given these radios at little or no cost. The radio will give off an alarm tone, and will give off a test tone. Some people may find this annoying and switch them off and put them away. Personnel changes occur and the new staff often has no idea they were issued a life-saving tool.
“It’s not going to do too much good in a drawer,” said McKay. “Some don’t have on and off switches. They are usually just one frequency. There are seven frequencies for NOAA, and the radio picks the one with the clearest signal. Most radios cost around $40.
Help With Watches, Become A Weather Spotter
The Richmond County Amateur Radio Club is sponsoring a Severe Weather Skywarn Weather Spotter Training class. The class is free and anyone can attend to learn about how to recognize changes in weather that need to be reported, and how to communicate those changes to meteorologists. Weather officials rely heavily on eye-witness accounts because seeing the weather change before your eyes and reporting how it changed can help meteorologists issue a watch or a warning.
People who attend the class can learn how and why buildings fail in high winds, indoor and field safety, thunderstorm development and severity, recognition of storm/cloud elements and anticipating storm motion, intensity and severity based on cloud structure.
“Weather spotters are used by NWS to help predict weather,” said Mark Gibson of the Amateur Radio Club. “They will be trained on certain conditions. It’s a very good service and a really good course.”
The class will be held April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Leath Library at 412 E. Franklin St., Rockingham.
For more information contact Mark Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jeff Orrock (NWS) at Jeff.email@example.com or (919) 515- 8209 ext. 223.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.