Severe Weather Awareness Week Day 1: Severe Thunderstorms

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 9:00 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 5:35 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - This year, Severe Weather Awareness Week in Nebraska and Iowa takes place between March 22nd and March 26th. Each day, we – along with the National Weather Service – will focus on a different topic related to severe weather. The hope is that during this time, you will review safety plans with your family and ensure you have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts.

Severe Week Topics
Severe Week Topics(WOWT)

Today’s topic: Severe Thunderstorms

Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur annually in the United States, about 10% are considered “severe”. What makes a thunderstorm “severe”?

Criteria for a severe thunderstorm
Criteria for a severe thunderstorm(WOWT)

A thunderstorm is considered “severe” when it produces hail the size of quarters (or larger) and/or wind gusts 58 mph or greater. It may go without saying, but if a thunderstorm produces a tornado, it is also considered “severe”.

Quarter-sized or larger hail considered severe
Quarter-sized or larger hail considered severe(WOWT)

HAIL: Large hail in a thunderstorm is indicative of a strong updraft. Hailstones are formed when an updraft carries water droplets above the freezing level in a cloud. Layers of ice form around the frozen droplet, allowing the hailstone to grow larger and larger. Once the updraft can no longer support the weight of the hailstone, it falls to the ground.

Hail is formed by strong updrafts in a thunderstorm
Hail is formed by strong updrafts in a thunderstorm(WOWT)

Hail cause injury to you, and can cause damage to your house and car.

WIND: Straight-line winds from a downburst can cause just as much damage to an area as a tornado. A derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that creates wind gusts of at least 58 mph for 250+ miles. As we saw across the Midwest during August of 2020, a derecho can cause significant damage with wind gusts over 100 mph!

Every thunderstorm contains lightning, which is a weather hazard in and of itself and should cause you to seek shelter immediately no matter the severity of the storm.

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