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The 'taco method': How to tell the difference between a Tornado Warning and Tornado Watch

There's a viral way to explain the difference between a tornado warning and tornado watch: Making a taco. Let us explain.

DALLAS — As severe weather comes to North Texas, you might get a Tornado Watch or a Tornado Warning for your county. We understand it can be confusing to know the difference and determine how dangerous your particular situation is. 

Well, there is a viral explanation that's been used in recent years by local news stations and municipalities alike to explain the difference: Making a taco. 

Yes, seriously. Let us explain. 

Here is the National Weather Service's definition of the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

Here is the visualization using the viral taco illustration: 

Credit: WFAA

Remember, for this example, that actual tornados are represented as preparation stages of tacos. 

  • "Taco" watch: All the ingredients for a taco are on the table. Tacos aren't yet formed, but they could be soon!
  • "Taco" warning: Tacos are being served! All the ingredients have been put together, and they're ready to eat now.

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