Flood Watches, Flood Warnings, Advisories and Statements

What are Flood Watches, Flood Warnings, Advisories and Statements?

Flood Advisory or Bulletin

When the news is called “flood advisory” or a “bulletin,” you are being given useful information, but are not necessarily being urged to immediate action. Listen to the advice and information, consider your specific circumstances and location, and make your decision about how to respond.

Urban and Small Stream Advisory

An urban and small stream advisory means that flooding of small streams, low-lying areas such as railroad and street underpasses and urban storm drains, is already occurring. If you live in or adjacent to such an area, you will need to be watchful and may need to take action to preserve property.

Flood Potential Outlook

Meteorologists will also sometimes refer to a “flood potential outlook.” This is a long range (36-72 hours) outlook issued by a local National Weather Service when forecast meteorological conditions indicate that a significant heavy rainfall event may occur that would either cause flooding or aggravate an existing flooding situation.

Flood Watches, Flood Warnings, AdvisoriesFlood Watches vs Flood Warnings

The words “watch” and “warning” are used for two different levels of flood alerts.

A flash flood watch or flood watch means that flooding or flash flood is possible in the area. The basic message of a flood watch is exactly what it sounds like, “Watch closely, conditions suggest a high likelihood of flooding.”

When the word “watch” is replaced by the word “warning“, flooding or flash flooding is imminent or already beginning to occur. If you are in a low-lying or flood-prone area, act immediately to ensure the safety of your family. When a warning is issued, it is too late to prepare property to withstand flooding. You may have only seconds to act.

When a flood or flash flood watch is issued:

  • Tune to a NOAA Weather Radio or listen to local stations for updates. Have a portable, battery powered radio at the ready in case of power outages.
  • When you are in a watch be ready to take action immediately.
  • If you live in an area that can be flooded, be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Floods won’t wait for you to pack your bages.
  • Look to local authorities for instructions and advice. They have access to the most up-to-date information and can tell you places you should avoid.

When a flood or flash flood warning is issued:

Follow the same instructions as above plus:

  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts or alternate, nonrecommended routes may be blocked or damaged by flood waters.
  • Leave early. If you wait too long you can become stranded because roads are flooded and escape routs are no longer accessible..

Flood Statement or a Flash Flood Statement

You might also hear that the National Weather Service has released a “statement,” perhaps a flood statement or a flash flood statement. A statement is a message with additional information that is issued after a watch, warning or advisory. The announcement of the cancellation of a warning or an update on road closures, for example, would be a statement. Statements are often important—a road closure statement, for example, may help you avoid a dangerous situation—but they don’t announce new flooding dangers as such. If new flooding occurs or is expected, new watches and warnings will be issued.