Watch, Warning and Advisory Criteria

During hurricanes and tropical storms, the National Hurricane Center and local National Weather Service Offices across the country share in the responsibility for providing critical weather information to the public.

To do so, the Hurricane Center and local offices closely coordinate on the forecast, in order to provide consistent information to the public. Consequently, the normal zone forecasts may be delayed during these situations.

Like all weather-related threats, the National Weather Service relies on a WATCH and WARNING program to alert the public to the potential dangers from tropical storms and hurricanes.

  • TROPICAL STORM/HURRICANE WATCH is issued when tropical storm/hurricane force winds are possible along the coast within 36 hours. If you haven't done so prior to the issuance of the watch, it is a good time to begin preparations for the potential storm, especially for those actions that require extra time.
  • TROPICAL STORM/HURRICANE WARNING is issued when tropical storm/hurricane force winds are expected along the coast within 24 hours. Once the warning has been issued, you should complete any preparatory actions and get to a safe location.

Once the storm arrives, stay in the safe location until the storm has completely passed. Don't be fooled by the eye of the storm, which can mislead people into thinking that the storm is over. Winds and rain will increase rapidly immediately after the eye passes overhead. Tropical circulations, including hurricanes, are classified based on the following wind criteria:

  • TROPICAL DEPRESSION: Wind speeds less than 39 MPH

  • TROPICAL STORM: Wind speeds between 39 and 73 MPH

  • HURRICANE: Sustained Wind speeds of 74 MPH or more

While the National Hurricane Center issues HURRICANE and TROPICAL STORM WATCHES and WARNINGS for the coast, the local National Weather Service Office is responsible for issuing numerous watches, warnings, and advisories for local hazards associated with or preceding the storm, both along the coast and inland.

Watches, Warnings and Advisories


While issued separately, these watches and warnings are generally summarized by each local National Weather Service Office in HURRICANE LOCAL STATEMENTS. In addition, the local office issues a variety of forecasts and information statements during hurricanes or tropical storms.

In addition to tropical storm/hurricane watches and warnings, the National Hurricane Center and Tropical Prediction Center issue numerous other products that can be very useful in tracking and assessing the potential hazards from tropical systems.

Tracking and Assessing

  • TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOKS - issued 4 times daily from June 1st to November 30th
  • PUBLIC ADVISORIES - Issued every 6 hours as needed
  • INTERMEDIATE PUBLIC ADVISORIES - Issued every 2 to 3 hours as needed
  • FORECAST/ADVISORIES - Issued every 6 hours as needed
  • DISCUSSIONS - Issued every 6 hours as needed
  • STRIKE PROBABILITY FORECASTS - Issued every 6 hours as needed

For additional information about hurricanes and hurricane safety, visit the National Hurricane Center's Website.