We’re no strangers to severe storms in San Antonio and South Central Texas. From giant hailstones, to damaging wind gusts, tornadoes, and flooding -- we get it all. But do you know what technically makes a storm “severe?”
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Now that you know where you stand, here’s what makes a severe storm, severe:
While even small, pea-sized hail can make a storm noisy, in order to be considered severe and cause significant damage to life and property, hail needs to be 1 inch in diameter, which is the size of a quarter. Although, as you know, hail can be much larger than that. In May 2021, a 6.4″ diameter hailstone fell in Hondo -- that the size of a honeydew melon!
It’s been determined that wind gusts greater than 58 mph are considered severe and can do damage. If National Weather Service meteorologists see that a storm is capable of producing a 58 mph gust or greater, they will issue a severe thunderstorm warning. Often, straight-line winds can reach above 80 mph and be just as damaging or even more destructive than tornadic winds.
Any storm that contains a tornado - even if it isn’t producing a lot of hail, rain, or lightning - is immediately considered a severe storm.
Technically, a heavy downpour or storm that produces flooding is NOT considered severe. However, because flooding is life-threatening, the National Weather Service will issue flood watches and warnings.
A noisy storm does not mean the storm is severe. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for a severe storm. That being said, a storm that contains lots and lots of lighting could become severe, so strike count is something that meteorologists watch closely as storms evolve.
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