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Texas Department of Insurance
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July 2023

Tornado watch or tornado warning? Big difference



A tornado watch is not the same as a tornado warning.

The big differences:

  • A tornado watch tells you to keep an eye out for a possible tornado. Pay close attention to local sources of weather information.
  • A tornado warning means a tornado’s been recently spotted in your area.


If you hear a tornado warning, immediately take cover. If you’re in a car, truck, trailer, or mobile home, get out and enter the closest building.

If you’re driving, don’t stop under bridges or overpasses. They don’t protect you from winds or flying debris.

If you’re caught outside and can’t get to a building, lie flat and face down in the nearest ditch or depression. Cover your head with your hands.

If you’re in a house or other building, go to an interior room, bathroom, or closet on the lowest level. Cover yourself with blankets, towels, or a mattress.

Don’t open windows; it doesn’t help equalize pressure. Also, shut all your doors; this could reduce the chances of your roof blowing off.


If you hear a tornado watch, tune in to your local weather report to keep track. Get ready to move to a safe space.

A tornado watch area is often large. It can include multiple counties, even whole states.

Under a tornado watch:

  • Review your emergency plans.
  • Bring in or secure outdoor objects that could blow around.
  • Check supplies such as batteries, flashlights, water, nonperishable food, and medicines.
  • Identify your safe room.

Summing up: A tornado watch means get ready. A warning means move—now—to safety.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit