Severe weather, a change

Here’s an interesting item on severe thunderstorm classification from the National Weather Service.  The criteria for a storm to be considered severe will be tightened beginning in 2010.

By definition, a thunderstorm is called severe if it produces winds in excess of 58mph or large hail (generally penny size or bigger).  The change coming will re-classify the hail criteria to 1″ diameter or larger.  In other words, hail size will have to be bigger in order to qualify a storm as severe.  The end result should be fewer severe thunderstorm warnings.

This is a very positive change, the way I see it.  There are too many warnings for weather extremes these days.  Over-warning folks, the so-called “cry-wolf” effect, has the unintended affect of desensitizing people to weather alerts.

What do you think?

Posted by Jim Duncan


16 Responses to Severe weather, a change

  1. Brian says:

    Additionally what constitutes a Severe Thunderstorm watch? Favorable conditions? OK…Then what constitutes favorable conditions? It seems we get severe thunderstorm watches even more frequently than warnings…and for no apparent reason other than a line of normal storms heading this way. Please leverage the hazardous weather statements more often and reserve Severe watches for when radar indicates severe cells or severe weather has been reported and is on they way.


    • nbc12weather says:

      Have to say I agree with you to some extent, although the higher frequency of Watches now vs a few years ago is at least in part due to the better computer-derived forecast guidance available. Despite this, material “verifications” of severe weather within Watch Boxes sometimes don’t happen. BTW, Watches are often issued prior to storm development.

  2. Chris says:

    i saw some dangerous lightning out here in toano just a few hours ago. that was some deadly lightning.

  3. Brian says:

    Thank goodness for the criteria change! Weather Notify constantly giving me Warnings for dull storms. And yes the “cry wolf” effect is definitely occurring, at least with me.

    Chris also mentioned lightening strikes. I personally feel that if there more than X amount of lightening strikes within a storm cell in a given timeframe that it should be considered Severe. Windy storms do not scare me as much as storms that have so much lightening going on that you could drive at night without headlights.

  4. Old Storm Chaser says:

    Just take a trip out to TexHoma around the end of April of any year and you’ll see how storms are managed by true professionals. These guys can call a storm well before it gets severe. Out there, you can see it coming for miles. No offense to Jim Duncan, he does a great job here. I just miss the rush of being in the midst of the storm.

  5. Chris says:

    i also admit to being a weather addict and i love storms as long as no damage is done. but do both the wind and hail have to be present for it to be a severe storm? what about amount of dangerous lightning?

  6. Joyce says:

    I too am with the “cry wolf” syndrome. Finally SEVERE means severe.. Cannot tell you how many times over the decades I tune out to the over agressive WARNINGS that seem to flood the media. glad to know of this new update in reality weather.

  7. Old Storm Chaser says:

    It’s a HUGE mistake. I’ve seen Tornadoes with NO HAIL. It should be based on cloud height and wind speed and not whether or not a storm produces hail. 95% or more of the time a Severe Storm usually has hail with it, but there are exceptions. If the storm is rotating it should be classified as severe. The Oklahoma May 1999 storm was born and dropped its first tornado within 20 minutes of birth. NO HAIL. Once it became a F5 it did have hail, but at first there was no hail at all.

  8. Becci says:

    I think this these are positive changes. I have definitely fallen to the “cry wolf” syndrome and blown things off that I perhaps should not have been so laid back about. However, since having children, I do tend to pay more attention these days and do stay tuned a bit closer to watch where the storms are and where they are headed, etc.

    And I agree with those that have said one reason I prefer your weather reporting is the fact that you tend to say like it is and not over alarm people.

  9. Karen says:

    This seems a rather fine line of change to me, but none the less a good one. I profess to being a little of a “weather addict” and I like to follow the storms and where they are, but I do think that sometimes we become a bit alarmist about the whole thing. I like NBC 12 covereage because I find you very factual and realistic and do not tend to exaggerate weather dangers and for that I thank you. Really this alarmism is just a symptom of our larger culture in which we seem to consider any small trouble intolerable and inacceptable. As a people, we seem to believe that there should be no imperfections in life and all should go according to plan – WRONG…welcome to reality. Okay, end of my little rant, I love your weather team and accurate and instructive coverage!

  10. Brad Meyer says:

    I agree. I think we get too many warnings and the conditions in my opinion didn’t warrant the warning. After a while you do get the ‘cry wolf’ syndrome and you begin to ingore the warnings. I think the change will be a tremendous benefit.

  11. I think the government needs to start making bigger pennies! Am I right people??!

  12. Tim says:

    I think it is a great idea. The cry wolf syndrome is really in full effect. I usually ignore the warnings myself.

    On another note, how do the storm classifications end up with oddball criteria like 58MPH winds? Why not 60MPH?

    • nbc12weather says:

      58mph is equivalent to 50 knots…a nice round number for the official definition. BTW, current hail size threshold is 3/4″ or larger.

  13. SCS says:

    I want a prettier “quilt square” to mark my comments. Here’s my comment. I believe a change in the quantification of storms is a good thing. Of course, I love storms! The worse the better! I believe that due to increased dependence/responsibility on the government (as opposed to common sense) it is imperative for broadcasters to cover their behinds! God forbid, the funding may get cut! ;(

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