Issued when a hurricane threatens, a hurricane watch covers a definite area and time period. A hurricane watch indicates that hurricane conditions are a real possibility, but it does not mean that it will happen. When the watch is issued, everyone in the area should listen for advisories and be prepared to act quickly if a hurricane warning is issued.
The hurricane warning is an action notice. This is the time to take all necessary precautions and begin relocating. Warnings are issued 24 hours before hurricane conditions are expected. When the hurricane path changes, the warning may be issued 12 to 18 hours or less before landfall.
Hurricane warnings identify where winds of at least 74 miles per hour are expected. No major breakthroughs are expected in the near future in either forecast accuracy or lead time. Thus, as more people crowd into vulnerable shoreline areas with no protection and limited escape routes, it becomes necessary to do more advanced and thorough preparedness planning.
Leave early to avoid delays if evacuation is anticipated. This means that if an evacuation is recommended for your area, you have a better chance of reaching safe ground before roads become blocked if you follow the directions of your local officials. Remember that you are in a better position than anyone to decide when you should leave, so leave early.