Prepare Kansas

Category: Weather-Ready

Advisory, Watch, Warning? Understand these important terms!

September is National Preparedness Month. It is also our annual Prepare Kansas online challenge. Prepare Kansas 2017 will provide tips on getting financially prepared ahead of disasters and emergencies. This year’s program will be conducted through the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page. No registration is required, so Kansans and anyone interested in planning ahead for emergencies can follow on Facebook and this blog at any time during September, pick up handy information and interact with K-State extension specialists and agents. Today’s post is written by Mary Knapp, Climatologist and Associate Specialist Weather Data Library.

When we think of severe weather, it is important to understand the terms used.  The National Weather Service uses three specific terms to indicate the severity of the event.  Advisory means that hazardous weather is expected and likely to be an inconvenience, but not life threating if normal precautions are taken.  It is often used with heat events, floods or winter weather.  Watch means to WATCH for changing conditions.  The National Weather Service may indicate that they are expecting to issue watches several days before the storm’s arrival allowing more time for preparations. Warning means that the severe event is actually occurring.  Take action NOW.

In addition to the severity of the weather expected, the type of weather is also indicated.  These include heat waves, dust, high winds, thunderstorms, floods, winter weather, blizzards, ice storms, and, of course tornadoes.

What is meant by some severe weather events is usually self-explanatory.  Here are some of the definitions for less easily understood events.  A heat wave is defined as” A period of abnormally and uncomfortably hot and unusually humid weather.”  Typically, a heat wave lasts two or more days.  Thresholds temperatures for a heatwave vary by location and season.  A severe thunderstorm, rather than a regular thunderstorm, is one that can produce a tornado, winds of at least 58 miles per hour and/or hail at least 1″ in diameter.

A blizzard is a winter storm where the following severe conditions are expected to last 3 hours or longer: more sustained wind or frequent guest of at least 35 miles per hour, falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility to ¼ mile or less.  Ice storm is used to describe times when damaging accumulations of ice are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant accumulations of ice pull down trees and utility lines resulting in loss of power and communication. These accumulations of ice make walking and driving extremely dangerous. Significant ice accumulations are usually accumulations of a quarter of an inch or greater.

Whatever the weather expected, preparation can reduce the risk to you and your family.  Have an emergency plan and emergency kit available.  Review that plan and refresh the kit on a regular basis.  Monitor conditions more frequently if severe weather is in the forecast.  And, take action when necessary.

Get prepared: Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 6-10, 2017

The National Weather Service in Topeka encourages all Kansans to participate in a Tornado Drill @ 10am Tuesday March 7.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in the drill by practicing seeking secure, safe shelter from a tornado. This test will be broadcast over NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio and many local television and radio stations. Local officials may also sound their warning sirens. Area residents, businesses, and schools are urged to treat the drill as if it were an actual tornado warning.

Learn more at



Plenty more winter to come!

The temperatures may suggest that spring is around the corner, but don’t be fooled — we still have plenty more days of winter weather ahead. Follow these tips shared by the National Weather Service and be prepared for cold weather.


  • Check the Forecast at or your favorite weather app, station, etc.: Make checking the forecast part of your regular routine so you’ll know when to expect cold weather.
  • Adjust Your Schedule: If possible, adjust your schedule to avoid being outside during the coldest part of the day, typically the early morning. Try to find a warm spot for your children while waiting for the school bus outside.
  • Protect Your Pets, Livestock and other Property: If you have pets or farm animals, make sure they have plenty of food and water, and are not overly exposed to extreme cold. Take precautions to ensure your water pipes do not freeze. Know the temperature thresholds of your plants and crops.
  • Fill up the tank: Make sure your car or vehicle has at least a half a tank of gas during extreme cold situations so that you can stay warm if you become stranded.
  • Update Your Winter Car Survival Kit.
  • Dress for the outdoors even if you don’t think you’ll be out much: The graphic below shows you how.