Watches and Warnings

Montana TornadoDo you know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning? Thunderstorms are common during the spring and summer in Montana. Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) to help residents and visitors prepare by taking the necessary precautions.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

A severe thunderstorm watch means that the potential exists for the development of thunderstorms that may produce large hail or damaging winds. When a watch is issued, you should go about your normal activities, but keep an eye to the sky and an ear to a NOAA weather radio or local radio station for further updates or possible warnings.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

A severe thunderstorm warning means that a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is imminent based on Doppler radar information. You should move indoors to a place of safety.

The term severe refers to hail that is dime size, 0.75 inches in diameter or larger, and/or wind gusts to 58mph or more. Although lightening can be deadly and excessive rainfall may lead to flashfloods, these are not a criterion for what the NWS defines as severe since an ordinary thunderstorms can produce both dangerous lightening and significant rainfall.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch means that severe thunderstorms that form may be capable of producing a tornado.

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning is the ultimate in severe warnings and means that a tornado is either occurring or is imminent based on radar. You should take cover immediately.

More Information

There are four NWS offices in Montana. Connect with the office in your area on Facebook or Twitter!

NWS-Missoula & @NWSMissoula
NWS- Great Falls & @NWSGreatFalls
NWS- Billings & @NWSBillings
NWS- Glasgow & @NWSGlasgow

This information was adapted from the NWS. For more information from NWS on weather terminology, click here.



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