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Flood warning defined: What the threats are and how to decipher them

Weather Glossary

NOTE: The above video was archived from July 11, 2020.

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Video above is from major river flooding on July 11 when Rochester received more than three inches of rain in a very short period of time. The ground was hard and dry, forcing most of the rain to rush into creeks and streams. The NWS Buffalo issued many different alerts for flooding and some of those may be confusing to the public. Lets go through each one and break them down.


The number one threat to life and property when it comes to water, a flash flood warning means that a very large amount of water has fallen in this area or will be moving within this area in a very short period of time. A good example of a flash flood would be in Lodi back in 2018 when very heavy rains fell in Seneca County and massive amounts of water rapidly flooded out much of the down in a matter of minutes. The NWS is working on a better way to prepare and alert the public of this hazard. If you are in the flash flood warned area, your phone will likely buzz from Weather Emergency Alerts (WEA).


When the NWS gets information on flooding creeks, streams, roadways, basements, or other low lying areas, they will often issue a flood warning for that area. When these are issued, flooding is occurring somewhere within the warning area. This will also trigger your phone to buzz (WEA).

A nice representation of the difference between a watch (the ingredients are there) and a warning (it has happened or is happening). Courtesy Brad Panovich

FLOOD WATCH: The ingredients for a flood situation are in place. In this stage it is important to know exactly how your area is shaped to help your decision making. Is your home in a low-lying area? Are you in a flood prone part of town? Are there any creeks or streams nearby?

FLOOD ADVISORY: This is put in place when there is just enough water to cause a surge in low-lying areas and some homes may have issues with flooded basements, but most of the region will not run into any flood concerns.

AREAL: This word is simply used to categorize that a certain area is under the specific threat. Other advisories and warnings may specify a certain river, creek, stream, or even lake.

The Hydrologic Prediction Service monitors rivers in the region and each one has a certain flood stage. You can not only monitor the level but also see a forecast from the HPS on how the water level will change.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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