SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With parts of eastern Hampden County already seeing a tornado warning issued a couple of weeks ago, it looks like severe weather season is here.

With the potential for severe weather comes severe weather watches and warnings.

We are no strangers to severe weather in western Massachusetts, especially during the warm weather months.

As we get deeper into spring and headed toward summer, it's just a matter of time before we are once again dealing with severe weather.

With that in mind, it's a good time to take a look at what some of those severe weather watches and warnings actually mean.

A watch is issued when there is the risk for hazardous weather, such as severe thunderstorms. When a watch is issued, that is the time to have a plan in place in case storms should threaten.

A warning is issued when a severe weather event is occurring, imminent, or likely. When a warning for hazardous weather is issued, it's time to take action to save property and lives.

Severe thunderstorm watches and tornado watches are issued by the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.

When the forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center find an area where conditions may be favorable for severe weather, they will issue a convective outlook, which will detail the risk for severe weather in that area as well as a risk category numbered 1 to 5.

A general thunderstorm risk means that severe thunderstorms are not expected. Generally, the higher up the scale you go, the greater the risk for severe thunderstorms in that particular area.

Severe thunderstorm warnings will be issued by local National Weather Service forecast offices. For Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties, these warnings are issued by the National Weather Service office in Norton. For Berkshire County, these warnings are issued by the National Weather Service office in Albany, NY.

Of course, not all thunderstorms will become severe.

A severe thunderstorm warning will be issued when a storm has hail at least 1" in diameter and/or wind gusts to 58 mph.

Severe thunderstorms can and occasionally produce tornadoes - something to keep in mind is that lightning, while deadly, is not a factor in whether or not a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.

All thunderstorms, severe or not, can be deadly. When thunderstorms are threatening your area. you will want to take steps to keep you and your family safe.

Stay tuned to Western Mass News on-air and online or listen to NOAA weather radio.

If thunder roars, go indoors. Keep in mind that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning and there's really no safe place outdoors during a thunderstorm.

Also remember that lightning can strike out of a clear sky. Keep away from windows and avoid electrical equipment and corded telephones.

Pick a tornado safe room in your home. Ideally, that would be a basement, but in the event, your home does not have a basement, you would want to find an interior room in your home. The goal is to put as many walls as you can between yourself and the storm.

If you are driving, try to exit the roadway and park.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

First Warning Meteorologist

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