Severe Weather Awareness Week: Severe thunderstorms

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 8:01 PM CDT
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Severe warned storm near Carrington, ND, July 9th, 2016. This storm produced baseball size...
Severe warned storm near Carrington, ND, July 9th, 2016. This storm produced baseball size hail with winds gust up to 60 mph and became tornado warned.(KEYC Weather)

Today, April 13th, is day two of Severe Weather Awareness Week in the state of Minnesota. It’s a week that Homeland Security and Emergency Management says, “the week is designed to refresh, remind and educate everyone about the seasonal threats from severe weather and how to avoid them.” Today we are talking about severe thunderstorms. The criteria for severe thunderstorm warnings and why you should not ignore them.

Criteria for severe thunderstorm warning

The National Weather Service (NWS) classifies a thunderstorm severe if the threat of strong winds is 58 mph or higher and/or hail of 1 inch in diameter or larger is imminent or occurring. Severe thunderstorm warnings can be issued either by radar detection or by spotter report.

Never ignore a warning

The criteria level for severe thunderstorm warnings was put in place because at the minimum threshold loss of property and life are possible. Research found that quarter size hail (1″ diameter) can cause damage to an old shingles, while larger hail can cause more widespread damage.

Loss of life due to hail is very rare. According to NOAA records only 4 people have lost their lives to hail since the year 2000. Even though it is very rare to die from a hail stone you never want to press your luck. Storms can evolve quickly. A storm that was once producing quarter size hail may have upgraded to producing baseball or even softball size hail. Large hail is more likely to cause deaths.

Wind on its own does not cause loss of life, the debris the winds toss or objects the wind knocks over is what causes fatalities within severe thunderstorms. At the lowest wind, within a severe thunderstorm, minor property damage can occur as well as uprooted small trees.

Winds over 60 plus mph will start to cause widespread damage, uprooting moderate size trees, cause damage to power lines, and cause minor damage to homes and mobile homes. Once winds reach over 70 mph, roofs of homes will start to peel back, windows can be broken, and mobile homes can be overturned.

It’s important to not ignore a severe thunderstorm warning. Severe thunderstorms can evolve quickly from the lowest possible conditions to more serious conditions. Stay up to date with the severe weather threat until it has passed. The safest place for a severe thunderstorm warning is in the lowest level of your home away from windows. If you live in a mobile home it’s best to leave your mobile home and find shelter in a more sturdy structure.

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