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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Understanding Weather and Flood Reports

4/14/2017 (Permalink)

Learn how to understand weather and flood warnings so you can be prepared before storms hit.

How many times have you watched the weather and expected a huge storm and ended up with a slight drizzle? Have you ever wondered when you should be worried about flooding in your area? Weather reports can be confusing if you don’t understand the terms used to describe storms and floods.

Learning the Weather Lingo

Meteorologists use different terms to represent the severity and imminence of a weather event. Once you crack the code, it’s easy to know generally what to expect. These terms are used to describe the status of anything from a wind storm to a blizzard.

  • Advisory: Advisories mean a weather condition is expected, but it’s often used for less severe kinds of weather. Advisories often indicate a weather condition that will happen within the next 24 hours or so. Meteorologists might refer to a wind advisory for relatively low-magnitude winds. Extreme winds, because of their potential for danger, would be indicated with a warning, not an advisory.
  • Outlook: Outlooks mean that a hazardous weather condition is possible in a few days. This is often your first notice that the potential for bad weather is on the horizon. You may hear a meteorologist refer to a weekend storm outlook.
  • Watch: Watches mean that a hazardous weather condition is possible or likely. This term is often used for weather conditions that could happen over the next few days across a large area. You might hear terms like “winter storm watch” while watching the news.
  • Warning: Warnings mean a hazardous weather condition is expected to happen or is already happening. This term is used for imminent weather conditions. Warnings are used for weather events that will likely be significant enough to cause damage to property or physical harm. Meteorologists might issue a heavy snow warning to indicate significant and imminent snowfall.

The terms watch and warning also apply to floods. If you hear about a flood watch, conditions are such that a flood could be possible, and you can start planning and paying more attention to weather reports. If you hear about a flood warning, a flood is either imminent or already occurring; you’ll want to watch for details about what areas the flood will likely impact and make the necessary preparations.

If you have questions about terms used for specific weather conditions, the National Weather Service provides a comprehensive glossary online.

Understanding Flood Phases

A large storm or consistent, heavy rain can cause a flood at any point in the year, but the winter months, November through February, bear the greatest flood risk.

Snohomish County breaks down floods into four phases, which each indicate a rising level of risk.

  • Phase 1: Phase 1 warnings are brought to the county staff’s attention. Although actual flooding is rare at this level, the county will prepare to open the Emergency Operations Center if necessary.
  • Phase 2: In Phase 2 and above, the Emergency Operations Center opens, and warnings will go out to emergency personnel such as the police and fire department. The news and schools will be alerted as well. The area may experience minor flooding with some road closures. Staff will monitor and report river gauge/level information hourly.
  • Phase 3: Levees, also known as dikes, are at risk of breaches/overtopping at Phase 3. Investigation crews will monitor levees and other flood control facilities. You can anticipate several road closures because of moderate to severe flooding.
  • Phase 4: This is the highest phase used to describe flooding conditions. Phase 4 warnings indicate major flooding and the potential for significant damage to occur.

Understanding weather and flood warnings can help you prepare before a storm or disaster hits. However, even the most prepared home can sustain significant damage during a severe weather event. If your home is damaged during a flood or storm, don’t hesitate to call SERVPRO® of South Everett.

Flood waters can be toxic, and water damage can create unseen damage within your home. We have the experience and training to safely handle any disaster. Call us anytime at 425-367-4484, and we’ll fix your home so it’s “Like it never even happened.”

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