Severe Weather Handbook Topic 4: Thunderstorm Winds and Hail

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The next topic of safety focus during West Virginia’s Severe Weather Awareness Week is Thunderstorm Wind and Hail.

The criteria for a severe thunderstorm in the United States is a storm capable of producing damaging wind gusts at or above 58 miles per hour and/or the presence of large hail 1 inch in diameter or larger.

Criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning NWS image

On days when forecast ingredients look favorable for severe thunderstorms based on wind or potential hail, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma will issue a severe thunderstorm watch. A Watch means conditions are right for severe storms.

NWS image

If storms produce the wind or hail at or above the warning limits, the local National Weather Service office will issue a local Severe Thunderstorm Warning which would last generally 30 to 60 minutes for a much smaller area.

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Interestingly enough there are no severe thunderstorm warnings based on lightning. There are no lightning warnings either in the American storm warning system. Also, a storm that doesn’t produce lightning but does contain damaging winds would have to be categorized as a high wind warning or some other wind advisory instead of a severe thunderstorm warning.

The Stormtracker 13 meteorologists will provide you with the daily severe thunderstorm risk categories sent out by the Storm Prediction Center and they will tailor that message for our specific area when storms threaten. These are the categories of risk used by the SPC and our meteorologists.

In terms of wind, Even the most common items become dangerous objects when picked up and carried by the wind. When a High Wind Watch or a Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued, secure outdoor items such as patio furniture, sports equipment and trash cans. Have dead tree branches that are near your home taken care of before the next strong storm system blows through.

Hail can do anywhere from very little damage to millions of dollars in damage within minutes, depending on how large the hail is. In the United States, hail that has a diameter of 1 inch or larger is considered to be in the range of being capable of creating damage or harming people.

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The size of hail is determined by the balance of the heat and humidity near the ground which helps create the updraft winds. An ice particle generally falls into the warmer rainy portion of a storm then gets swept back up into the air that’s below the freezing mark where that water layer freezes. That ice particle is now larger and the fall and rise process continues with new layers of water and ice being added until the hail stone is too large for the updraft to force upward and the hail stone falls to the ground below.

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Stormtracker 13 does have unique VIPIR real time radar products that show you where there is hail and where it’s moving in the short term and also we can project where the hail MAY fall next using our exclusive Predictor model which looks at all of the ingredients in the atmosphere in the days to come. A very handy tool to help you prepare for the weather ahead during summer storm season.

Previous storm tracking with VIPIR Real Time Radar showing location and size of hail – WOWK image

Any time the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm watch or warning you will receive it on the Stormtracker 13 weather app which you can find here for free. Just be sure to enable location services and enable alerts and you will get those notices if a watch or warning is placed over your area.

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