Severe thunderstorm safety

Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 12:02 PM CDT
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Severe thunderstorms, even without a tornado, can cause extensive damage. In order for a storm to be classified as ‘severe,’ it needs to meet any of these 3 criteria: winds of 58 mph or greater, quarter-sized hail or larger, or have a tornado.

“The wind does not have to be whirling around to cause damage and to cause injuries," says Storm Team 11 Chief Meteorologist Stephen Bowers. "Even straight line winds can do the same thing a tornado can do, so it doesn’t really matter what’s causing the damage, what matters is that damage is being caused, and the threat to your safety is being caused.”

If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for your area, you must seek shelter and stay away from windows.

“Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued for multiple reasons, one of the reasons is big wind and another reason might be large hail," Bowers says. "Especially in the case of strong wind, frequently there will be some indication as to how strong that wind will be, and if you have tornado-like wind from a severe thunderstorm, I always recommend that people do what they would do for a tornado warning.”

In Mississippi from 1950 to 2017, June has seen the most damaging wind reports, but severe straight line wind events can happen year-round.

“We have to pay attention to [severe thunderstorm warnings] because [straight line winds] can do the same things a tornado can do; not to mention by definition, a severe thunderstorm can produce a tornado with little or no warning.”

Tomorrow’s topic for Severe Weather Preparedness Week will be tornado safety.

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