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Severe Thunderstorms & Severe Thunderstorm Safety

Severe thunderstorms are officially defined as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs, and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees or cause structural damage to trees. Some severe thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph, so please pay attention to the weather so you know when severe storms are possible. Thunderstorms also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning; heavy rain can cause flash flooding.

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Watch vs. Warning
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

What to Do When a Severe Thunderstorms Strikes
Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or an NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.

At Your House: Go to your secure location if you hear a severe thunderstorm warning. Damaging wind or large hail may be approaching. Take your pets with you if time allows.

At Your Workplace or School: Stay away from windows if you are in a severe thunderstorm warning and damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.

Outside: Go inside a sturdy building immediately if severe thunderstorms are approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Taking shelter under a tree can be deadly. The tree may fall on you. Standing under a tree also puts you at a greater risk of getting struck by lightning.

In a Vehicle: Being in a vehicle during severe thunderstorms is safer than being outside; however, drive to closest secure shelter if there is sufficient time.

More Information on Severe Thunderstorms
For more information on severe thunderstorms and severe thunderstorm safety, please visit the National Weather Service’s Weather-Ready Nation page on Severe Thunderstorm Safety at weather.gov/safety/thunderstorm