Watches & Warnings

The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for potential severe weather. This includes severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding, and other types of severe weather.


A severe weather watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather in the area.  Closely monitor the situation in case it gets worse. A watch may be issued for any type of severe weather (thunderstorm, tornado, flash flood). For example, a tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes.


A severe weather warning is issued when severe weather has actually been observed, and there is an imminent threat to the area receiving the warning. Listen closely to instructions provided by weather radios, emergency officials, and the AU ALERT System.

Watches vs. Warnings

The table below explains the major differences between the two.




Reason Issued

Conditions favorable

Severe weather detected by radar or trained storm spotter


4-8 hours, sometimes longer

Usually 30-60 minutes

Action to Take

Monitor the weather and prepare to take action in the event of a warning

Take shelter immediately


Storm-Based Warnings

All severe weather warnings issued in our area by the National Weather Service are now storm-based warnings. This means that the warning only includes the locations that are potentially in the direct path of the storm. The graphics below show the difference between the previous county-based warning method and the new storm-based warnings.

What does this mean to you? At Auburn University, the outdoor warning sirens will only sound if any part of main campus is projected to be in the path of the storm. If you are off campus in Lee County (including the cities of Auburn or Opelika), only the sirens projected to be in the path of the storm will sound.  For other locations, check with your local Emergency Management Agency to find out the details of their warning systems.

National Weather Service Forecast Offices

Watches, warnings and other weather advisories are issued by the National Weather Service. The following National Weather Service forecast offices provide coverage for Alabama

Additional Resources

Last Updated: Jan. 13, 2015

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