The difference between a hurricane warning and watch is a matter of degrees.
Hurricane warnings are more severe and mean hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.
A hurricane watch means conditions are a favorable for a threat to form within 36 hours. Be ready to act if a warning is issued.
When hurricane warnings are issued it means it's time to complete storm preparations and be prepared to evacuate if you choose or are directed to do so by authorities.
If you decide to ride it out when when a hurricane warning is issued, stay indoors away from windows.
Before emerging, be sure the storm has passed. The calm "eye" of the storm is deceptive. The worst part of the storm comes once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings and other objects damaged by the first bout with winds can be more easily broken or destroyed by the second round of winds.
Hurricane levels at a glance
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating on a hurricane's intensity.
Tropical storm: Winds 39-73 mph.
Category 1 Hurricane: Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 knots). Damage to unanchored mobile homes, poorly constructed signs and some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.
Category 2 Hurricane: Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 knots). Damage to building roofs, doors and windows. Considerable damage to mobile homes. Flooding piers. Small craft in unprotected moorings may break loose. Some trees blown down.
Category 3 Hurricane: Winds 111-130 (96-113 knots). Structural damage to small residences and utility buildings. Large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly built signs destroyed. Flooding destroys smaller structures near the coast with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Category 4 Hurricane: Winds 121-155 mph (114-135 knots). Extensive curtainwall failures with complete roof structure failure on some small residences. Major beach erosion. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Category 5 Hurricane: Winds 156 mph-plus (135-plus knots). Roof failure on residences and industrial buildings. Complete building failures with small utility buildings blown away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near shoreline. Massive evacuation required.
Tornadoes can also happen during a hurricane. Remain indoors in the center of your home in a closet or bathroom without windows if one touches down.
Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.
Whether it's a hurricane warning or watch, monitoring NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for up-to-date storm information is a good idea.
Other hurricane preparation tips:
Bring inside all lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by the wind. Don't let them become projectiles.
Prepare to cover all windows of your home. If shutters have not been installed, use pre-cut plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended.
Fill your car's gas tank.
Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water and medications.