Severe Weather Awareness Week: What makes a storm severe?

Posted at 4:17 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 16:26:57-04

Thunderstorms can happen at any time across southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, but it’s SEVERE thunderstorms that hold the greatest danger when it comes to spending time outside in the spring. But what exactly is the difference between severe thunderstorm watches and warnings?

First, let's go over what makes a storm severe. A severe thunderstorm is defined as a storm that has one or both of these criteria: Either hail that is at least the size of a quarter (1” in diameter) and/or winds of 58 mph or greater.

Now, before you downplay it, sometimes severe thunderstorms can produce more damage than a tornado!

Severe Criteria

So how do you make sure you don’t get caught in a severe storm? You just have to remember two words and know the difference: Watch and Warning.

If a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for your location, this means conditions in the atmosphere are favorable for severe storms to develop. This is when you need to have a plan in place because a severe storm could affect where you live.

When a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued, this means a severe storm is occurring, imminent or likely and this is when you take that plan and put it into action. You take shelter inside, away from windows and wait for the storm to pass.

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When severe thunderstorms develop this spring, you can be sure that the First Warning Storm Team will be alongside you the entire way, tracking the movement of the storms online and on your TV.