Explaining severe weather alerts during thunderstorms
SPOKANE, Wash.– Severe thunderstorms did a number on the Inland Northwest to start the month of June. A series of storms on June 3rd and June 5th brought wind damage, large hail, flooding, and hundreds of lightning strikes. During the storms, you may have seen an alert pop up on your phone, heard an alert on the radio, or saw a weather alert scrolling across the TV screen.
Many people understand that these alerts indicate lousy weather, but some don’t know what these alerts specifically mean. Storm season in the Inland Northwest runs from late April to early September, so there’s plenty of time to see more nasty storms this year. Here’s what common thunderstorm weather alerts mean.
If the setup for weather on a given day looks likely to produce severe storms, a Severe Thunderstorm Watch or a Flood Watch could be issued by the National Weather Service. A Watch means that bad weather is likely sometime in the next two days.
In contrast, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or a Flash Flood Warning means that that particular type of severe weather is happening right now. If you are put under a warning, it’s time to act immediately to safeguard you, your family, and your property.
This Watch/Warning system applies to winter weather, tornadoes, windstorms, and other types of severe weather too! A Watch means watch out for it, and a warning means it’s here.
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a storm produces severe hail or wind. Severe hail is considered to be quarter-sized or larger. Severe winds are considered to be gusts of 58 mph or higher. We saw 13 severe thunderstorm warnings between June 3rd and June 5th this year. The following maps show flood alerts in green and severe thunderstorm warnings in red.
A Flash Flood Warning comes when rain from thunderstorms comes down so heavy and so quickly that the creeks and streams below can’t hold all the water coming down at once. This past weekend saw 10 of these warnings and reports of flooding across the region, including a washed-out road in Okanogan County. There were also 12 Flood Advisories this weekend, which are used to alert people of minor or inconvenient flooding.
Flood alerts are often done separately from other kinds of thunderstorm alerts because of the higher danger that flooding poses. Flooding is the second deadliest form of severe weather in the United States behind extreme heat. Flooding is especially dangerous in your car. Driving through flooded roads is never a good decision because you don’t know what the road looks like underneath.
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