MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The National Weather Service currently issues a severe thunderstorm warning for any storm with 58 mph winds or greater or quarter size hail. Now, the agency is launching new categories of these severe thunderstorm warnings in hopes of letting people know exactly what threats to expect in a timely manner.
“Every severe thunderstorm is important and people should pay attention, but not all severe thunderstorms are the same,” said Jason Beaman with NWS Mobile.
Here is how the new categories break down: The “base” warning is for storms capable of producing winds of 58 mph or greater or quarter size hail or larger. The next category is “considerable,” which is used to tag storms with 70 mph winds or higher or golf ball size hail or larger. The last, and most dangerous category, is “destructive,” which means that storm could produce 80 mph winds or greater or baseball size hail. This category will trigger an emergency alert on your phone, just like you get with tornado warnings
Tornado warnings are already categorized this way based on the strength of the rotation. The difference? You will get an emergency alert on your phone for each category of tornado warning but you will only get an alert for the “destructive” level of severe thunderstorm warnings.
Across the nation, only 10 percent of severe thunderstorm warnings are considered “destructive.” Here locally, they are rare, but we did see a couple of events last year that would have fallen under this category.
“Severe thunderstorms with straight-line winds can produce just as much damage as say, an EF-1 tornado. If you get winds of 80 plus mph, that can do significant damage. Damage that we have seen in our area numerous times. So it is not just tornados that cause damage,” Beaman said.
The new categories should be launched this week.