The Best Weather Radios and How to Decode Your Weather Radio

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The Best Weather Radios

One of the things on my the top of my recommendation list for ALL households to have is a weather radio. During a storm your television might be down, your internet might not be working, but as long as you either still have power or if you have a battery powered Weather Radio, you will still be able to know what’s going on around you and what’s still to come.

The best weather radios can provide invaluable information that will help you better prepare for what’s coming. Weather Radios are inexpensive and you can choose from a few different kinds of models. If you are worried about not having power, make sure to get a battery powered or a hand crank radio. If you don’t plan on being near your radio all the time, one with an alarm is the way to go. Whichever way you go, make sure you have the weather radios in your home at all times!

By looking at the options I’m sure you’ll be able to find the best weather radios for your family. We personally have had a small Midland Weather Radio we picked up for only about $25. (We used to have a crank radio but I found that did not get as good of a signal where we lived, although I really liked the crank option.) While I’m sure this one isn’t the best weather radios out there, it fit our needs because it has an alarm that will go off automatically and alert us for coming weather, so I don’t have to push the buttons on the device and wait for the weekly weather to finish before I can hear the alert. We’ve since upgraded to a Sangean Rechargeable Weather Radio which we like very much. I wanted something that I could take outside with us while we are working around the yard since we can’t easily see in all directions from our house.

Now about what that cryptic monotone voice on your weather radio… what exactly is she talking about? Let’s decode her warning piece by piece.

“The National Weather Service in ________ ….”

Each weather radio runs off the weather provided by their local reporting offices and the blanks up above represent your closest town with one of these offices (usually the largest town in the area unless you live in a large city or suburban area, then they would have several).

“…has issued a…”

Here’re the different kinds of warnings that can be issued by your weather radio:

  • Tornado
  • Hurricane
  • Severe Thunderstorm
  • Flash Flood
  • Flood
  • Winter Storm
  • Special Marine
  • NonPrecipitation (Wind or Fog)
  • Tsunami
  • Space Weather


“Watch or Warning”

Knowing the difference between a Watch and Warning are important. A Watch means that conditions are likely or favorable to develop whatever the announcement is about. A Watch is your chance to prepare for the issue so when it changes into a Warning. A Warning means that whatever the announcement is about is happening now so it’s time to seek shelter and get ready for immediate issues.

“For the following counties….”

With this announcement, the voice will then list all the counties that the particular watch or warning is for. They will also say if it’s only for a certain part of a county (Central, West-Central, Eastern, etc) so you know if you are in the path. It’s a good idea to set your weather radio to report all surrounding counties…not just the one you live in, so you are aware of what is going on around you and what is headed your way sooner than if you just put in your own county. Weather can move quickly and it’s better to be prepared.

“Until _____ am/pm.”

The voice will then let you know what time to expect this weather until. This timing can change frequently so it’s a good idea to keep listening to future broadcasts, even if they seem the same, to make sure the time hasn’t changed.

“Stay alert for….”

This warning phrase isn’t always mentioned at the end of the broadcast but often when they want to relay more information this will come at the end of the warning and let you know what kind of hail is associated with the storm, or what kind of damage the storm has already produced. This is a good part to listen to so you have a better, more specific idea of what to watch for and be ready for.

This should conclude a typical weather radio warning. There may be another warning for your county that will follow this warning for something else that you should be alert about also so make sure to listen to the broadcast.

Weather radios can also tell you of chemical issues, earthquakes, avalanches, and more. They are one of the best ways to stay informed about what is happening around you so you can be prepared for what might be coming your way!

If you want to learn more about predicting the weather yourself you might want to read the article on Old Fashioned Ways to Predict the Weather!

The Best Weather Radios are great to have when you’re prepping! Here are some other great articles on prepping:

Which do you think are the best weather radios to have? What watch or warning is the most common for your area?


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  1. I’m so glad I found this post because I am currently working on my emergency stash, and didn’t even think to put one of these in my home! We don’t really get crazy weather very often out here in Central California, but we do get the occasional tornado warning, wind advisory and winter brings fog that will shut down schools!

    1. Definitely one of the top preparedness items I would recommend. You just never know and these are so much more up to date than the internet or tv and if you don’t have power you can still get the weather!

    2. One of the things I love about living in Oregon our weather is so mild. We may get flooding, but usually isn’t too bad. We may get severe snow but the rest of the country laughs at our severe weather.

  2. We have had one for ten years or more and it really gives us peace of mind. It has gone off at least 20 times today for severe thunderstorms in our area.

  3. We have a weather radio but it usually goes off while we are in the middle of whatever they are warning us about. The “local” city tv stations (read 100 miles from us) have weather alerts that they will send to your cell phone. This way if we are outside (all the time) we can still know what is happening. Besides if the weather isn’t affecting the “city” they don’t cover it on tv. Learn to know what is happening around you by observing the weather-everyday. You may not be able to figure a pressure gradiant but you can tell what is going to happen by how the air feels, how the sky looks, what the wind is doing (or not doing) and how the animals are acting. NOAA website has great pages on learning how to read weather maps also – you can learn almost as much as the weatherman.

  4. Great post! I love when I read posts I’ve never seen before. Weather radios are awesome and a true investment in your safety.