ORLANDO, Fla. — This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Florida, and Spectrum News 13 is taking a close look at thunderstorms and tornadoes, the associated dangers, and how you can keep your family safe.

Thunderstorms and tornadoes are among the many weather threats we face in Central Florida. And understanding the basics of how they form and where are key to keeping you safe.

Understanding Thunderstorms

Let's start with thunderstorms. These form when air is lifted upward into an unstable atmosphere. The result is a storm that produces lightning, gusty winds, heavy rainfall, and in some cases, isolated hail.

How Tornados Form

A tornado is a violent column of air that touches the ground. Tornadoes are always attached to severe thunderstorms.

Tornadoes can be very destructive; in fact, damage from a tornado is sometimes similar to hurricane damage.

Knowing the Difference Between Watches, Warnings

When severe thunderstorms or tornadoes are expected, watches and warnings may be issued. But what's the difference?

A watch means conditions are "favorable" for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. This is the time you should "watch" the weather and think about shelter if severe weather heads toward your area.

A warning means a severe thunderstorm or tornado is likely or imminent. This is the time to "take action." You need to stay inside, stay away from windows, and move into an interior hallway or bathroom.

Florida is well known for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, so be prepared now when severe weather strikes.