What's a tornado watch? Or tornado warning? Here's what to know about Oklahoma weather.

For Oklahomans, knowing some basic severe weather vocabulary can help you stay safe and better understand what meteorologists are talking about when storms roll across the Sooner state.

Tornado watch

Issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours and typically well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather.

Tornado warning

Issued when a tornado is indicated by the weather service radar or sighted by spotters. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Warnings can be issued without a tornado watch being in effect and are typically issued for a duration of around 30 minutes.

More: Three OU meteorology students die in car crash Friday on way home from storm chasing

Recent severe storms in Oklahoma are a reminder that spring is tornado season in Oklahoma.


Rain-wrapped tornadoes are cloaked by a wall of rain and thunderstorms, making visibility of the tornado almost impossible and, because of that, are considered to be some of the most dangerous tornadoes.

Wedge tornado

Slang for a large tornado with a condensation funnel at least as wide at the ground as it is tall from the ground to cloud base. While often used somewhat loosely to describe any large tornado, a true wedge tornado is very rare. Wedges often appear with violent tornadoes, F4 or F5, but many documented wedges have been rated lower. It generally is safe to assume that most, if not all, wedges have the potential to produce strong or violent damage.

Multiple vortex tornado

A tornado with two or more condensation funnels or debris clouds present at the same time that often rotate about a common center or each other and can be especially damaging.

Flash flood

A sudden flood caused by heavy rains or the sudden release of water, as in a dam break. Small streams and creeks may react rapidly, rising several feet in just hours or even minutes.


The warm, moist, rising air that fuels a storm and condenses into a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud as it rises. Air may rise at speeds of more than 100 mph in a severe thunderstorm.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma severe weather: What's a tornado watch, tornado warning