‘Destructive’ thunderstorm warning category added to Weather Service alert system

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WWTI) — As not all severe thunderstorms can impact regions the same, the National Weather Service is updating its alert system.

Beginning August 2, the National Weather Service will include a “damage threat” tag to severe thunderstorm warnings. According to the NWS, this will aim to better convey the severity and protentional impacts from thunderstorm winds and hail.

Included in this new tag are three categories of damage threat for severe thunderstorm warnings. In order of highest to lowest damage threat, the categories are destructive, considerable and base. These tags and additional messaging are designed to promote immediate action in an area. An example of this warning is pictured below:

Courtesy: NOAA

Specifically for a storm to be labeled “destructive,” the criteria includes at least 2.75 inch diameter, baseball sized hail, or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings that include this tag will activate a Wireless Emergency Alert on smartphones in the effected area.

For a storm to be labeled “considerable,” the storm must have the potential to produce at least 1.75 inch diameter, gold ball-sized hail, or 70 mph thunderstorm winds.

Additionally, the criteria for baseline, or “base” severe thunderstorm warnings will remain unchanged. When no damage threat tag is present, damage is expected to be at the base level.

The National Weather Service added that this new destructive thunderstorm warning will convey the need for urgent action as a life-threatening event is occurring, and may cause substantial damage to property. For more tips on how to prepare for severe storms, visit the NOAA website.

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