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National Weather Service to launch new wireless emergency alert for thunderstorms

nws thunderstorm alert 2.png
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 22, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The National Weather Service announced it would launch a new wireless emergency alert for thunderstorms.

Beginning August 2, the NWS says to convey the severity and potential impacts of thunderstorms, adding a "damage threat" tag to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The alert will be similar to the NWS Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.

The NWS developed three categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings:

  1. Destructive
  2. Considerable
  3. Base

The categories are designed to promote immediate action based on the threats.

  • 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.
  • The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75-inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.
  • The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, the damage is expected to be at the base level.

According to the NWS, on average, only 10% of all severe thunderstorms each year nationwide reach the destructive category.

"The new destructive thunderstorm category conveys to the public urgent action is needed, a life-threatening event is occurring and may cause substantial property damage," a release says.

The NWS says storms categorized as destructive will trigger a wireless emergency alert to your cell phone.

Anthony Reyes at WKBW first reported this story.