SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Living in the Ozarks, everyone knows there are different types of severity with Severe Thunderstorms. Hazards vary with every storm such, as tornadoes, widespread straight-line winds, large hail storms, clouds to ground lightning, and flash flooding.
The National Weather Service created a new system to help differentiated levels of severity in a storm on August 2, 2021. This system will show different types of severity levels and the potential impact depending on the storm. This classification will help determine if a storm is more destructive and the urgency of the storm.
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are now three tiers that will appear in the destruction level. The big change in the system is the third tier or the destructive warning. The list shows the most damage threat to the least damage threat.
- The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75-inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area. This tier will alert individuals allowing them to take the necessary precautions in the warned area.
- The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75-inch diameter (golf ball-sized up to tennis ball-sized) hail and/or 70-80 mph thunderstorm winds. This tier will not activate a WEA.
- The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized up to ping pong ball sized) hail and/or 58-70 mph thunderstorm winds. This tier will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, the damage is expected to be at the base level.
National Weather Service meteorologist in charge, Kelsey Angle, states that the new thunderstorm warning system will highlight those storms that will be more impactful and more damaging. No matter what the severe storm has associated with it, everyone should respect them. Lightning from all storms, nonsevere to severe, will always be a hazard everyone should respect. Remember when thunder roars go indoors. The new warning system will help provide additional information to the public on the hazards occurring with every storm.
In 2021 the NWS has issued 121 severe thunderstorm warnings in the Ozarks and southeast Kansas. Out of those 121 severe thunderstorm warnings, 11 of those severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued for winds of 70mph, states Kelsey. Severe thunderstorms with the destructive tag will be a very small number.
According to the National Weather Service, on average, 10% of all severe thunderstorm warnings a year fall under the “destructive damage threat” nationwide. Most of these storms are long-lived damaging winds events called derechoes, with the more intense thunderstorms being, “supercells” which can produce very large hail in their paths.
The new category for destructive thunderstorms conveys the public should take urgent action during a life-threatening event that may cause property damage. Storms with the “destructive” tag will trigger a Wireless Emergency Alert, WEA, to your cell phone.
“All National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will continue to be issued and distributed via weather.gov, NOAA Weather Radio, Emergency Alert System, and through dissemination systems to our emergency managers and partners.”
The additional tags are part of the broader Hazard Simplication Project to help improve the communication of watches and warnings to the public.
Thirteen of the 22 costliest weather disasters in 2020 were severe thunderstorms. One of the costliest events in 2020 happened in the Ozarks, which was Jan 10-12. This event started as a severe thunderstorm and flooding event, which produced three tornadoes, numerous flooding, and flash flooding events, and ended with a winter mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow across the Ozarks and many southeastern states. This event across the southeast cost 1.2 billion dollars.
The new destructive would have activated the WEA for many of these impactful events, including the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history, the $11 billion derecho that affected Iowa in August 2020.
Always have a plan in place before storms hit, and watch your local Meteorologist and stay up to date.