(WKBN) – Severe thunderstorms can happen at all times of the year, and while they are all dangerous, the type of storm varies. Severe storms can range from damaging winds to large hail and even tornadoes. When it comes to the potential of severe weather, it is important to know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and warning and a tornado watch and warning, so you can keep yourself and your family safe.
What is the difference between a watch and a warning?
When a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch is issued, it means that atmospheric ingredients are in place for severe thunderstorms or tornados to occur. These are typically issued a few hours before the start of the potential severe weather.
When a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued, you want to take action as either a severe thunderstorm or tornado is occurring or is imminent.
What criteria are used to determine if a thunderstorm is severe?
For a thunderstorm to be severe, it has to be capable of producing either a tornado, damaging winds of at least 58 mph or hail of 1-inch diameter or larger.
What does it mean if a severe thunderstorm warning has a “considerable or destructive threat” tag?
In 2021, the NWS added a “damage threat” tag to severe thunderstorm warnings to better convey the severity and potential impacts of thunderstorm winds and hail. While it is not common here in NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania, you may see a severe thunderstorm warning with either a destructive or considerable damage threat tag.
The criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning with a considerable damage threat is damaging winds of 70 mph or hail of 1.75-inch diameter (golf ball-sized).
The criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning with a destructive damage threat is damaging winds of at least 80 mph or hail of at least 2.75-inch diameter (baseball-sized). A severe thunderstorm warning with this tag will activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area. According to the NWS, only 10% of all severe thunderstorms reach the destructive category each year nationwide.
Whether a thunderstorm is severe or not, they are all dangerous, and you want to stay safe and go indoors when you hear thunder or see lightning. Your Storm Team 27 Weather Team will always keep the area aware of the potential for severe weather. You can always stay up to date with the weather by checking out the 7-day forecast online or on our Storm Team 27 Weather App.