Severe Thunderstorm Warnings And What to Expect

Thunderstorm
  • Although thunderstorms are a marvel to watch and experience, severe thunderstorm warnings should not be ignored.
  • A severe thunderstorm consists of at least one of three things: one-inch hail, 58 mph winds, or a tornado.
  • Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when any—or all three—of the previous conditions have been spotted. Warnings require action and not just preparation.
  • Flash flooding often occurs during a severe thunderstorm, along with lightning strikes and possible fires.
  • Do not ignore severe thunderstorm warnings of any kind.

Thunderstorms can often stir up different emotions in people. While one person sits out on the porch enjoying the sound of rain and the flash of lightning, someone else hides under a blanket and jumps at every crack of thunder.

Regardless of how a thunderstorm makes you feel, it’s important to also heed the warnings when a severe warning is issued. It’s incumbent to understand what a severe thunderstorm warning is and how you can prepare for its potentially devasting attack.

What is a Severe Thunderstorm

A basic thunderstorm is a rain shower that is accompanied by thunder—the sound caused by lightning. The pitch of thunder is determined by the nature of the lightning and its distance. The same lightning strike can sound different depending on where you are in relation to the thunderstorm.

A thunderstorm is considered “severe” when one of the following conditions is met: hail that is larger than 1 inch in diameter, winds over 58 mph, or a tornado. Although severe thunderstorms can occur throughout the United States, the greatest threat is from Texas to southern Minnesota.

What Does a Severe Thunderstorm Warning Entail

There is a difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a warning. A severe thunderstorm watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK and is a reminder to be prepared. A severe thunderstorm warning requires you to take action. A thunderstorm of severe magnitude has been spotted and is making its way through a specific area.

All severe thunderstorm warnings will give information on where the storm is located, and which specific towns or cities will be affected as the thunderstorm plows through. Warnings will also give the best estimate at what to expect once the thunderstorm arrives. A severe thunderstorm watch is not required in order for a warning to be issued. It is important to get somewhere safe as soon as a warning is announced. Your life and property are in imminent danger.

Severe thunderstorm warnings can last for an hour, a full day, or even off and on for several days. Some of the worst thunderstorms have spanned over numerous days while not letting victims recover from the previous days’ fallout. Do not think that once a severe thunderstorm settles down that another one isn’t following closely behind. The succession of thunderstorms is not that uncommon.

What to Expect During a Severe Thunderstorm

Although quarter-sized hail, high winds over 58 mph and the possible tornado do not all have to be present during a severe thunderstorm, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, a tornado can form out of nowhere during a severe thunderstorm.

Due to the enormous amount of rain that falls over the span of a severe thunderstorm, sometimes a flash flood warning will be issued as well. Streets and low-lying places may be overrun with water causing damage to cars, homes, and other property.

As a severe thunderstorm approaches specific areas that were mentioned during a warning, nearby lightning strikes can also increase. Lightning strikes are known to cause fires even in the presence of rainfall. Lightning can strike a tree or an electrical line causing an immediate spark. Once an exposed wire touches any amount of standing water, it instantly becomes a dangerous hazard.

Be Smart When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is Issued

It’s extremely important that severe thunderstorm warnings be taken seriously. Although you may enjoy watching the rain or listening to the crack of thunder, a severe thunderstorm can strike without a moment’s notice. Trust those that issue these warnings and heed their advice when they relay what their satellites and radars are showing.

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Written by Bryan Brammer