Mercer County, WV (WVNS) — As severe weather season approaches, knowledge is our greatest tool in staying safe when mother nature decides to get rowdy. One important fact to remember this storm season is the difference between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Warning and what to do when either is issued.

The National Weather Service is a government weather agency and only authority in issuing watches and warnings. They will issue a Severe Thunderstorm Watch when conditions are right for a storm often hours before the storm hits.

The uncertainty where the storm will be means watches are issued for large areas over long periods. This means you have time to make a plan and monitor local conditions through local news or the Stormtracker 59 app. Anyone in a watch area should take appropriate actions.

“When it comes down to a severe thunderstorm watch, the first thing you want to do is make sure that you’re aware of what’s going on weather wise. It’s a good time to check in with the storm tracker 59 team and also start to think about where are you going to shelter in case a severe thunderstorm comes your way”

Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Liam Healy

Once severe storms develop or move in, a Warning may be issued. Warnings are only issued when a storm has an immediate threat to life or property, 58 mph winds or more, and or hail larger than one inch. Since warnings are based on active storms moving through a region, warning zones are often smaller and more confined. If you find yourself in a Warned area, you have just minutes to put your plan into action.

“So a warning is issued in a small area. It’s just for that part of the storm that does exceed that severe criteria. So you have winds in excess of 58 miles per hour and you’ve got large hail with that. So that’s when we have to really take action.”

Stormtracker 59 Chief Meteorologist Heidi Moore

While tornadoes are often associated with severe weather, they aren’t the only destructive type of weather the two Virginia’s face.

“You know, you don’t always need a tornado to relocate a tree. Severe thunderstorms can do that, too, with winds in excess of 58 miles per hour. A dead tree blown down could land on someone’s car or their homes. And knowing where to be during those times could save your life.”

Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Bradley Wells

For those with a basement or underground room, this is the safest place to be when away from windows. For those that don’t have a basement or storm shelter getting to the most interior room on the lowest floor is your safest place.

Most structures have a center room with 4 walls and no windows whether that’s a closet, pantry, or bathroom. Remain in this room until an all clear is issued or 30 minutes after the storm has passed.

Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week runs until Friday, March 11th. Severe Weather Awareness Week for West Virginia starts on Monday, March 14th. Stay with Stormtracker 59 and 59News for more weather tips as our region prepares for the spring storm season.