This article was originally published in 2018 but has been updated in 2021 to include relevant content and additional information.
The arrival of spring means severe storm season. Depending
on your region, this means severe thunderstorm development is right around the
corner, or already underway. Please take a minute to look through some
resources to help keep your family and friends safe this spring and summer.
Severe Weather Preparedness
Because severe weather generally affects different regions
at different times of the year, the National Weather Service relies on
the local NWS offices to plan and schedule their local severe weather
preparedness week. Please visit the NWS preparedness events calendar so
you know when to expect it for your area. The Spring Safety page and the
Safety presentation from the NWS are also great resources to check often.
Regardless of the season, stay safe year-round with these Safety Tips from the NWS.
1. Understand Tornado Alerts and Thunderstorm Warnings
Every spring and summer, it’s always a good idea to refresh yourself on the difference between watches and warnings for both tornado alerts and thunderstorms. The NWS has clear definitions for these severe weather events, and we’ll go through them in detail below:
- Tornado Watch (issued by the NWS Storm Prediction Center): Weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes. A watch can cover a part of a state or several states, depending on the conditions and can last for four to eight hours.
- Tornado Warning (issued by your local NWS office): A tornado has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. There is serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. Act now to find safe shelter. A warning can cover a part of a county or several counties and are usually issued for 30 minutes or so.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch (issued by the NWS Storm Prediction Center): Weather conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorm development. By definition, a severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces one-inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. A watch can cover part of a state or several states and are usually issued for a duration of four to eight hours. They are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning (issued by your local NWS office): A severe thunderstorm is indicated by radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal to or exceeding 58 miles an hour. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a severe thunderstorm watch being already in effect.
2. Know How Storms Develop
How do storms develop? By educating ourselves enough to answer this question, we can start to learn how to identify potentially dangerous weather conditions to get ourselves and our loved ones to safety. Another
benefit is that by learning, we start to eliminate the fear of the unknown. A
towering cumulus cloud may look beautiful, but if it’s growing rapidly, then be
aware! Learn more on Thunderstorm
Development, and Tornado
Alley so you can be prepared.
3. Watch Sky Conditions
Cloud development, sky color, and changes in wind speed and direction are all signals of storm development. Understanding cloud types can help us identify any potential dangerous sky conditions. Dark grey or green skies on a horizon could mean a storm’s approaching, but make sure to watch its movement, because it may not be of concern if the winds are pushing the storm away from you. Watching the sky conditions while you’re outdoors is nature’s way of sending us signals so we can stay ahead of any potential danger and get to safety as soon as possible.
Sky Conditions That Could Indicate a Storm is Nearby:
- Dark or greenish-looking
- Large hail
- Dark, rotating clouds
- Loud roaring (a sound like a freight train implies a tornado is approaching)
If you experience any of these signs, seek shelter immediately. A good rule of thumb is Get Away, Get Shelter, and Get Low:
- Get away from any tall or large objects
- Get shelter by finding a sturdy structure
- Get low by going to the lowest level of the building
If outside, get as low as you can in a low ditch and do not seek shelter under an overpass. Here are more examples of how to stay safe if a tornado-producing thunderstorm is nearby.
4. Monitor Severe Weather with an AcuRite Weather Station
Stay ahead of dangerous weather by setting up an AcuRite Altas® in your backyard or on your roof. Make sure to get the additional lightning sensor to be warned of developing thunderstorms. By connecting your weather station to the My AcuRite® website and app, you have the added bonus of monitoring the conditions while you are away from home. And you can have fun with setting up alerts pushed directly to your mobile device to be notified of developing severe weather. For example, set an alert for lightning strike detection, high wind gusts, or increasing rainfall rate to stay ahead of the storm!
Protect Your Home From Storm Damage
Severe weather can do a number on your house or apartment, so think about connecting some AcuRite environmental sensors to your monitoring system. Even if thunderstorms are rattling roofs, you can keep track of your home with water leak sensors, humidity sensors, mold detectors, and even home security that will tell you if a door or window blows open!
Stay Prepared for Severe Weather
By refreshing your severe weather safety tips every spring, and performing regular maintenance on your AcuRite weather and home monitoring sensors, you can keep your family and home safe and protected before thunderstorm season. Share and discuss below the thunderstorm damage you’ve experienced in and around your home and property. The weather enthusiasts out there who love severe thunderstorm season should consider becoming an official Storm Spotter!