Severe weather season is officially underway and as we head into the next few months it’s important to know what key phrases to listen for, to know when to expect a little thunder and lightning and when to get inside to avoid severe weather. In tonight’s Weather Ready Nation Report, we take a look at what differentiates a severe thunderstorm from any other kind of thunderstorm and how you can stay safe from these very common threats.
If you have spent any prolonged period of time on the South Plains, you know that thunderstorms are a way of life here. They’re possible just about any time of year and can bring beneficial rainfall, beautiful cloud formations and can cool you off on a hot summer day. However, when the conditions are right, thunderstorms can turn severe quickly and bring life-threatening hazards that can impact you and your family.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Marissa Pazos explains. “So severe thunderstorms are strong thunderstorms that develop approximately anytime of year. And we have a criteria here with the NWS that actually defines what a severe thunderstorm is. And that is a storm producing 1″ hail (diameter) or greater so we want 1″ diameter or greater. And then wind gusts up to 58mph or greater.”
These specifications are the minimum requirements for the National Weather Service to put out a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, but West Texas is no stranger to much more extreme conditions like on May 19th, 2018 when severe thunderstorms dropped up to 3 inch diameter hail, up to 2 inches of rain, and wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Even last week, on March 18th, a severe thunderstorm erupted over Southwest Lubbock, dropping 2.25 inch diameter hail and torrential rainfall.
“Right so lots of hazards that still go along with any strong to severe thunderstorm, so you can have flash flooding or flooding, so you can have a lot of rain coming out of a storm and cause street flooding if not massive flooding. And then you can also have thunder and lightning that is still produced out of these storms, so lightning can still be deadly. So we still have all of those hazards we have with regular thunderstorms, just with severe thunderstorms we just have added criteria.”
Since severe thunderstorms are not necessarily detected with the naked eye like a tornado or haboob, but rather by a specific set of criteria by the National Weather Service, there are certain ways to make sure you protect yourself when storms become severe.
“Of course have a safe place in your house, have maybe some supplies with you before an active day, pay attention to the tv meteorologists, the national weather service, have your NOAA weather radio or smart phone. And also know that there’s severe thunderstorm watches that we put out, there’s severe thunderstorm warnings that we put out. A watch is essentially saying ‘hey watch out for severe thunderstorms’. And then when we put out a severe thunderstorm warning, that’s saying ‘hey there is a severe thunderstorm near you, you should be careful.'”
While severe thunderstorms are possible year round, late March through mid-June is the most active time that we see severe weather here on the South Plains. So be sure to stay tuned to KLBK and have your NOAA weather radio nearby so you can be well informed on when to expect either a garden variety thunderstorm or a severe one.