Weather Warning Terms

The National Weather Service uses the words advisory, watch and warning to alert you to potentially dangerous weather. Understanding these terms and knowing how to react can be a life saver.


An advisory is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, imminent or likely. Advisories are for less serious conditions than warnings that cause significant inconvenience and if caution is not exercised, could lead to situations that may threaten life or property.


A watch means weather conditions are favorable for dangerous weather to occur. In other words, a watch means “watch out” for what the weather could do, and be ready to act accordingly. You may wish to alter or have a back-up plan for any outdoor activities or travel. For events that come and go quickly, such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or flash floods, a watch means that the odds are good for the dangerous weather, but it’s not yet happening. When a severe thunderstorm, tornado or flash flood watch is in effect, it means you should look for signs of dangerous weather and maintain access to the latest information. Sometimes a severe thunderstorm, tornado or flash flood can happen so quickly that warnings cannot be issued in time. A watch means that the event is not an immediate threat.


For severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, a warning means the weather event is imminent or occurring somewhere in the defined warning area and that people need to take shelter as soon as possible.

Outdoor tornado warnings are normally given by sirens. People indoors should listen to radios, TV or Weather Radio warnings to find out the latest information.

Emergency Warning Siren Activation

Outdoor warning sirens are activated to promote situational awareness for citizens of a dangerous or potentially dangerous weather situation within Waseca County.  Upon hearing outdoor warning sirens it is important that all persons immediately refer to local broadcast media (radio, TV, weather radio, etc.) for additional information.

As recommended by the National Weather Service and in agreement with Waseca County, the activation of warning sirens is based on the following weather related criteria:

Tornadoes: Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service and/or tornado or funnel cloud reported by local Law Enforcement, Emergency Responders, or Emergency Management personnel based upon reports received by trained severe weather spotters.

Severe Thunderstorms: Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued by the National Weather Service that clearly reports sustained wind speed estimates of at least 70 mph for Waseca County and the cities within the National Weather Service warning polygon box that are in the predicted path of the storm.

Siren Duration: Sirens will be activated for a full cycle; roughly 3 minutes.  Sirens may be activated for an additional cycle if new warnings are declared for the area.

All Clear: There is no such thing as an “all-clear” siren, so a second or third activation means that the threat is still imminent and finding or staying in a safe shelter area is strongly encouraged.