With warm temperatures and Spring-time arriving early this season, so it seems, it's never too early to brush up on the threats the warm season brings.
There have been a few instances in the Midwest and Great Lakes region already in the past few days of severe weather, where severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes have already formed. This is not unheard of, but certainly rare for mid March. Nothing says we couldn't see something similar with our abnormally warm spell of weather, which is expected to continue in to the summer months.
I wanted to refresh you on the difference between severe thunderstorms, and so-called "basic" thunderstorms.
Do you know the difference? Well, I can tell you, not many do. My fellow meteorologist, Steve Glazier, and I recently conducted a poll to assess the awareness and interpretation of forecast information, including severe weather. A surprising number of people felt they knew what a severe thunderstorm would bring, while in fact, they did not.
So with that, let me enlighten you, so you and your family can stay prepared for the likely event of severe weather this upcoming warm season.
A severe thunderstorm warning is issued by the forecasters at National Weather Service when there is an imminent threat of damaging wind in excess of 58 mph, and/or a threat of large hail (specifically larger than 1" in diameter). There may also be a risk of tornadoes (which would result in the issuance of a "tornado warning"). Those 3 classifications or any combination of them, are specific to a "severe thunderstorm". Contrary to what many believe, heavy rain and lightning are not qualities that would cause the US National Weather Service to issue a "severe thunderstorm warning".
Prior to the actual occurrence of a severe thunderstorm (pop quiz time: what does a severe thunderstorm warning mean?!), the National Weather Service or Storm Prediction Center might issue a "severe thunderstorm watch". A "watch" is issued for a larger region, where conditions are considered favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms, usually in a period of 12 or less hours. When a severe thunderstorm watch is issued, you should continue to stay alert to changing and developing weather, especially any thunderstorms. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, it is once the thunderstorm has developed and threatens… (pop quiz!) …. 58 mph winds or greater, hail larger than 1" in diameter, or the risk of a tornado. When the warning is issued for your area, you should be prepared to seek shelter indoors to protect yourself from the impending storm until it passes or the warning time has expired.
I'll be posting more in the coming weeks about preparing yourself for the threats of the warm season. Meteorologist Steve Glazier has also written up several blogs this week, working with the National Weather Service to keep you prepared for the threat of flooding. See our blog section by clicking here to read those!