CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – As someone who was personally impacted by the historic June 2016 flooding in the Mountain State, it is a mission to me to make sure that folks in our region are ready for when Mother Nature shows her ugly side.
Flooding is the costliest and most dangerous form of natural disasters in the Mountain State. The combination of steep mountains with narrow valleys creates the perfect recipe for significant valley flooding, and though recent historic flooding have been compared to occurring every 500 or 1,000 years, there is no way to tell when the next historic flood will take place more than a few days out in advance.
As a television meteorologist, there are several weather-related agendas I have that I hope to succeed in our area with. For example, I hope to get everyone in our region to be able to point out their town and county on a map. Geography literacy is not great across the country, and our region is no different. In an age where maps are posted daily with informative content, it is imperative that people understand where they are located on the map. That also means that other methods of explaining and articulating important weather information must be utilized in order to convey whatever important topic is at hand.
The other main mission I have is for folks to understand the difference between a watch and a warning, and this pertains directly to flooding. Whether it’s flash flood watches, flash flood warnings, flood warnings, flood watches, etc., they are issued several times throughout the year in our region.
When it comes to meteorology and talking weather on television, I like to keep it simple. A watch means that it could happen, a warning means that it should happen. Watches are issued by weather professionals when conditions are favorable for the development of flooding. This typically means that flooding is not occurring.
When a warning is issued, that means that flooding is likely taking place or is about to take place. This same rule of thumb also applies to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The following is a list of types of flood watches and flood warnings used by the National Weather Service that you will hear the StormTracker 13 team use regularly.
Offical Flood Watch and Warnings and their Meanings
- Flash Flood Watch – A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding. It does not mean that flash flooding will occur, but it is possible.
- Flash Flood Warning – A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.
- Flood Watch – A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
- Flood Warning – A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
- River Flood Watch – A River Flood Watch is issued when river flooding is possible at one or more forecast points along a river.
- River Flood Warning – A River Flood Warning is issued when river flooding is occurring or imminent at one or more forecast points along a river.
Notice the patten that warnings are issued when flooding is about to occur or is occuring, while the watches are issues when conditions are favorable (but not occurring yet) for flooding.
As we continue through spring and early summer, familiarize with these terms and be aware of changing weather conditions.
For even more details on watches and warnings issued across the country, click here.