Here’s what the ‘hatched area’ on a severe weather map means

If your location is included in one of these areas, you should pay close attention to the forecast

You’ll occasionally hear meteorologists talk about the so-called "hatched area" when describing the outlook for severe weather.

They aren’t issued very often, so start paying close attention to the forecast if your location is included in this type of area.

Here’s a closer look at what the "hatched area" means for you.

What is a ‘hatched area’?

The Storm Prediction Center issues severe weather outlooks whenever an outbreak of nasty storms is expected. They use a five-level scale to describe the threats (tornadoes, damaging wind and hail) associated with the forecast storms. Sometimes, they’ll include a black-shaded area in addition to the five-level scale that is regularly used.

Meteorologists usually refer to this shaded region as a "hatched area." It’s called that because the shading is made up of closely-spaced lines, a practice known as hatching.

On FOX Weather, we show these areas in a slightly different way. You’ll see them denoted as areas with a black line surrounding them filled with grayish circles.

What does a ‘hatched area’ mean?

A "hatched area" means there is a significant threat of the particular type of severe weather being described in the associated map inside the highlighted area.

For example, if you are looking at the outlook map for hail, and you see a "hatched area," it means there is a good chance that large hail is possible inside that area.


Specifically, a "hatched area" on a tornado outlook means tornadoes of EF-2 intensity or higher are possible. For hail, a "hatched area" means hailstones 2-inches in diameter or larger are possible. A "hatched area" for damaging wind means winds of hurricane force (74 mph) or faster are possible.

How rare are they?

Shane Brown, FOX Weather’s senior weather data specialist, said less than 10% of all tornado and damaging wind outlooks issued by the SPC since 2002 have included a "hatched area." Hail maps include a "hatched area" slightly more often at a bit more than 20% since 2022.

What should you do if you’re in a ‘hatched area’?

When your location is inside a "hatched area," it’s important that you stay updated on the latest weather forecast. It is also vital that you have a reliable way to receive weather alerts from an official source.

If tornadoes are the primary threat, you should start reviewing your tornado safety plan and practice it. Include your family in those drills, so that everyone knows what to do in the event a tornado warning is issued.