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The first week in March has been designated Severe Weather Awareness Week in Arkansas.

The week was designated by the National Weather Service and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to promote weather safety before the start of spring storm season.

"March 1 starts the peak season across our area," said Jason Hansford, meteorologist with National Weather Service Shreveport.

People are encouraged to prepare for severe weather by reviewing severe weather safety rules, and to understand the hazards associated with severe thunderstorms.

"We encourage everybody to know general weather safety and know what to do when they receive a weather alert," Hansford said.

A severe thunderstorm watch means severe storms are possible. Everyone should be prepared. Weather conditions are right for thunderstorms capable of producing large hail or damaging winds at the location that is under a watch.

A severe thunderstorm warning means severe storms are expected and people are encouraged to seek shelter. It means large hail or damaging wind is occurring or will occur very shortly at that location.

Tornado season in this area begins in March and peaks in May, according to NWS.

Tornado watches and warnings are similar to ones issued for thunderstorms.

A tornado watch means conditions could lead to the formation of a tornado and those in the area should know of a safe location and be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar, meaning a tornado is happening or will happen soon. Anyone in the area with a tornado warning should take action because there is imminent danger to life and property. Those in the area should immediately seek refuge in the safest location possible.

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