Residents and business owners on the Gulf Coast are no strangers to severe weather. A flood is one of the most frightening and unpredictable things that can happen in your town. Do you know how to respond if the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a flood watch or a Flood Warning? Learn the difference between these two terms so you can take the necessary actions during an emergency.
Flood Watch: Get PreparedThis alert is often issued before a flood warning. It indicates favorable conditions for a flood in your area. Flooding is not guaranteed to occur, but since it’s very likely, you should begin preparing for a possible evacuation now. This way, you’re ready to go in case the flood watch is upgraded to a flood warning.
Flood Warning: Take ActionThe NWS issues a flood warning when flooding is imminent or already occurring. You shouldn’t wait around to see how bad the flood gets in your area, or it could become too late to escape. Take immediate action and evacuate your home or business if a flood warning is issued in your area.
Other Flood-Related AlertsWhile flood watch and flood warning are the two most common flood-related alerts issued by the NWS, be aware of other warnings you might hear:
- Flood Advisory: This is the mildest level of a flood alert. It means heavy rains or other conditions may lead to minor nuisance flooding. The storm isn’t severe enough to issue a flood warning, but circumstances that warrant a flood advisory can still result in inconvenience. If you aren’t cautious, the situation could even threaten life and property.
- Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is one of the most dangerous types of floods because it indicates sudden, fast-moving water that takes just hours or mere minutes to develop. It’s possible for a flash flood to occur even if it isn’t raining, so take any flash flood warning you hear seriously.
- River Flood Watch/Warning: These alerts are issued when flooding is possible (watch) or imminent (warning) at one or more points along the bank of a river.
- Coastal Flood Watch/Warning: These are similar to ordinary flood watch/warning alerts, but they apply specifically to floods caused by coastal waters.
- Hurricane Watch: This alert means conditions are ripe for a hurricane to occur. The NWS issues a hurricane watch when a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 mph or higher will pose a potential threat to your region within the next 48 hours. Hurricanes can cause storm surges, coastal floods, and river floods depending on where they occur.
- Hurricane Warning: Similar to a flood warning, this alert indicates that a hurricane with winds of 74 mph or higher is expected to hit within 36 hours or less. The warning may remain in effect after the winds have dropped below 74 mph if dangerously high storm surges are expected to linger.
- Tropical Storm Watch/Warning: Tropical storms contain winds of 39 to 73 mph. A watch or warning has the same implications as a hurricane flood watch/warning.