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Severe weather: what to do in a storm

Know the difference between watches and warnings, along with tips to keep you safe.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When severe thunderstorms strike, you want to make sure you know what to do to protect you and your family. According to the National Weather Service, preparation is key to keeping you safe in the event of severe weather. 

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Watch vs. Warning

When severe weather is a possible or imminent threat, emergency warnings and watches can be confusing, but it is important to know the difference.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! 

This alert means that severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. This means you need to keep checking the weather and stay informed. The watch area is usually large, several counties or states. 

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! 

This alert means that severe weather has been reported in your area and it indicates that there is danger to life and property. You should take shelter somewhere sturdy and safe. Warnings usually cover a smaller area that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

You can read more about the difference in these alerts here.

If you know severe weather is headed in your direction, NWS has a few tips

Be Weather-Ready

Check the forecast regularly to see if severe weather is headed your direction. Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed. 

Sign Up for Notifications

The NWS recommends you make sure you have a way of receiving notifications for your area. 

Create a Communications Plan

You should have a plan with your loved ones that includes a meeting place. You should pick a safe room in your house that has no windows. Get more ideas for a plan here. 

Practice Your Plan

Conduct drills with your family so everyone knows what to do in case of a severe thunderstorm. (Don't forget your pets!)

Prepare Your Home

Keep trees and branches trimmed around your house and if you have time, secure loose objects. Make sure your windows and doors are closed, and that any valuable objects are inside or under a sturdy structure.  

Help Your Neighbor

Encourage your loved ones to prepare for severe thunderstorms. NWS even recommends you take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt during severe weather.

If severe weather has already hit, NWS says acting quickly can keep you safe. 

Stay Weather Ready

Make sure to check in with The National Weather Service often, and stay updated about sever thunderstorm watches and warning. You can also download the WLTX app and stay up to date with our coverage. 

At Your House

If there is a severe thunderstorm warning while you are at home, go to a secure location and take any pets if time allows. This warning could mean that wind or hail are on their way. 

At Your Workplace/School

If you are not in your home when a warning is issued, you should stay away from windows and large areas such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums.


If you are outside when a warning is issued, get to a sturdy building immediately. Structures like sheds and storage units are not safe enough, and taking shelter under a tree is not safe. Trees can fall down or increase your risk of being struck by lightning. 

In a Vehicle

Being in a vehicle during severe thunderstorms is safer than being outside; however, if you have enough time, you should try to make it to a secure structure. 

You can always get the latest conditions by downloading WLTX's apps or signing up for our text alerts.

Weather App Phone:  on.wltx.com/WLTX_Weather_iPhone

Weather App Android: on.wltx.com/WLTX_Weather_Android

iPhone app: on.wltx.com/1NTHH98

Android app: on.wltx.com/1NTHvXq

Sign Up for WLTX Text Alerts: Text Alert Signup Page

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