Key Hurricane Terms You Need to Know

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When you live in a hurricane danger zone, you’ll hear a lot of weather words tossed around on the news during storm season.

Many of these key terms are similar, but the subtle vocabulary differences can point you to two very different courses of action.

Here are the key terms, so you can interpret the reports and take action to stay safe.

Types of Warnings and Storms:

Watch
A Watch means storm conditions are possible and could be reaching your area within 48 hours or less.

While a watch doesn’t guarantee the storm will reach your area, it is still best to prepare to take action.

Warning
A Warning is an announcement that a specified area has a storm moving in, and expected to hit within 36 hours or less.

Tropical Storm
A tropical storm is an organized system of thunderstorms, with winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour or less. Tropical storms have the potential to develop into hurricanes.

Hurricane
A tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles per hour or more. Hurricanes are rated on a scale of 1 to 5. The scale is called the Saffir-Sampson Hurricane Wind Scale. Learn more about what the ratings mean.

Understanding Hurricane Strength Progression:

So, when combined, you get the following (in order of increasing severity:)

Advisory
A weather advisory is the message given to the public about a severe storm. The advisory will keep you updated about which locations are actually under watch or warning as the storm and information develops.

Tropical Storm Watch
A Tropical Storm Watch is an announcement that a specified area might be in danger of tropical storm damage in 48 hours or less.

Tropical Storm Warning
A Tropical Storm Warning is an announcement that a tropical storm is moving into a specified area, expected to hit within 36 hours.

Hurricane Watch
A Hurricane Watch is an announcement that a specified area might be in danger of hurricane damage in 48 hours or less.

Hurricane Warning
A Hurricane Warning is an announcement that a hurricane is moving into a specified area, and is expected to hit within 36 hours.

Extreme Wind Warning
An Extreme Wind Warning means that winds of greater than 155 miles per hour are expected to hit the area within 1 hour.

More Important Hurricane Terms:

Hurricane Eye
The area in the center of a hurricane.

Hurricane Eye Wall
Intensely high winds surrounding the hurricane eye. An extreme wind warning could be issued as these high-intensity winds approach.

Storm Surge
A rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane.

Tornado Warning
Tornado Warnings can sometimes be issued before, during, or after hurricanes, so be sure to keep checking for updates even after the storm.

Want to learn more about how to prepare your home and your family for a hurricane? Check out our preparedness tips before a storm.