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Here's the difference between hurricane/tropical storm watches and warnings

Whether the National Hurricane Center issues a watch or a warning, you'll want to be prepared for any storm in advance.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Hurricane season incoming

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While the time to prepare for hurricane season is now, the National Hurricane Center has two key pieces of information to understand: a watch and a warning.

Although they vary in meaning, they need to be taken seriously.

That's especially true during an Atlantic Hurricane season that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts to be "above-normal."

According to the agency's forecasters, we could be looking at 13-20 named storms with 3-5 of them being major hurricanes and 6-10 hurricanes. 

Here's a breakdown of what each watch or warning means for you: 

Tropical Storm Watch: Issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of 39 to 73 mph or higher is possible, generally within 48 hours. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding. 

Tropical Storm Warning: Issued when sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding.

Hurricane Watch: Issued when hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Hurricane Warning: Issued to indicate that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the warned area. The hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds to allow for important preparation.

Peak hurricane season runs from August through early October when the ocean waters are typically at their warmest. Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.

Learn more about preparing for hurricane season at the 10 Tampa Bay Hurricane Headquarters.

RELATED: USF survey finds Floridians may be 'overconfident' when it comes to hurricane preparedness

RELATED: NOAA predicts an above-normal 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

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