Watches and warnings are a product issued ahead of certain weather threats by forecasters at the National Weather Service. Central Iowa’s weather is covered by NWS Des Moines, which is located in Johnston, IA.

Types of severe weather watches/warnings that Iowa can see

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch, Severe Thunderstorm Warning
  • Tornado Watch, Tornado Warning
  • Flash Flood Watch, Flash Flood Warning
  • Flood Watch, Flood Warning

Watch: Be Prepared, Warning: Take Action!

Watches are typically issued for several hours and several counties, while warnings are issued in increments of 30-45 minutes for smaller areas that are highlighted within a polygon.

Swipe left and right to see how to tell a watch from a warning on our maps

For example:
When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued, this means there are enough ingredients in the atmosphere to form severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. Severe Thunderstorm Watches show up in pink. This is when you should prepare.

Know where to go if severe weather strikes and make sure you practice your plan with those you live with. Also, make sure you have a way to get weather information. Turn on Wireless Emergency Alerts through your smartphone and keep an eye on the weather conditions as storms form and evolve.

When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, this means a severe thunderstorm has been reported by trained spotters or has been indicated by radar. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings show up in orange. This is when you should take action. Seek shelter in a safe place immediately.

To see the current watches and warning for central Iowa, visit