Weather News

Jul 21, 2013 1:57 PM by Stephen Bowers

What makes a storm "severe?"

We often receive reports of "severe thunderstorms" with no explanation of why the storm is severe. That's why, when reporting severe weather, it's important to report exactly what you are seeing. We need to know, not just that you are seeing hail, but also how large it is and where you saw it occur. Be as specific as possible.

When reporting wind, be specific about what that wind is doing. If damage occurred, that's information that will help us determine the storm's strength. Be sure to describe that damage with as much detail as you can when you report.

There's a reason for this. To be classified as "severe" a thunderstorm has to meet strict criteria. By definition, a thunderstorm is considered severe when it produces the following conditions:

  • Wind over 58 mph
  • Hail over 1" in diameter
  • A tornado
  • Any combination of these three things
If these conditions are not met, a thunderstorm is not classified as severe. Heavy rain and lightning are not part of criteria to be met for a storm to be called "severe."

If a thunderstorm is known to be producing these conditions or if radar shows strong evidence that these criteria are being met or will be met, warnings will be issued accordingly by the National Weather Service.

So remember, when you report severe weather to us, be as specific as you can about what you are seeing and where you are seeing it. Often, the National Weather Service needs those reports so they know to issue the warnings, and we will pass those reports to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service so they have that extra knowledge to help them issue warnings.

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