Weather Service: Sixty-three percent of people understand weather warnings/watches

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    Unusual weather could prompt students to pay more attention to weather statements, but a lack of clarity in those statements might prevent students from understanding what they mean, according to research from a doctoral student at Michigan State University.

    Researcher Bob Drost said people do not take enough action during severe storm warnings. Drost found that only 63 percent of people understood that a warning is the most severe type of statement issued by the National Weather Service, according to Softpedia.com.

    Bill Bunting, Meteorologist-In-Charge at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth/Dallas Weather Forecast Office, said the National Weather Service makes a constant effort to make people aware of the meanings of their statements. The employees at the weather service have completed outreach projects to make people aware of the meanings of the statements they issue and the dangers that can occur if safety precautions are not followed, he said.

    There is a difference between a watch and a warning, Bunting said. A watch indicates that weather conditions are favorable for the tornado or thunderstorm to occur and can last for several hours. Warnings, on the other hand, mean that the tornado or thunderstorm has been seen or is occurring somewhere in the region. Warnings last for only about 30 to 60 minutes.

    “If a warning is issued for your area, you really should stop and take immediate action to see if you are in a path of a storm and then get to a place of shelter before it arrives,” Bunting said.

    Diana Combs, a junior graphic design major, said she would not react to storm warnings unless she heard a siren indicating a storm nearby.

    Without something as drastic as a siren, she said she would not react to storm threats she received from television updates.

    “It doesn’t really affect me,” she said.

    Austin Grinder, junior political science major, said he receives of weather updates on television or through an application on his cell phone.

    Grinder said he would not take safety precautions for storms when he sees updates.

    “I really don’t feel like we get that bad of weather in Texas,” he said.

    Still, Bunting said the possibility of tornados and dangerous weather exists during any month of the year, even though peak tornado season for Texas is in the spring.

    “Ultimately what we hope that people will do after they go through that process of confirming that threat to them is they will activate their own severe weather plan,” he said.

    Students can take precautions as simple as avoiding windows, seeking shelter or getting out of the path of the storm if possible, Bunting said.

    Watch: Weather conditions are favorable for the tornado or thunder storm to occur, but where and when it will occur is still uncertain. Watches can be in effect for several hours.

    Warning: The tornado or thunderstorm has been seen, is occurring somewhere in the region or has a very high probability of occurring. Warnings can last about 30 to 60 minutes.