Spring Severe Weather Preparedness: Step 4 Know the Threat

Published Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tornadoes get all the attention and people freak out over the prospects of a tornado. In reality, tornadoes are only one threat when it comes to severe weather in the spring and summer. Other threats are just as dangerous – if not more – than tornadoes. Lightning and straight-line winds are certainly more common in our area than tornadoes. And, those straight-line winds and downbursts can be just as destructive as a weak tornado.

Lets talk about those severe weather threats. Knowing what you might be facing will impact how you and your family prepare when severe weather threatens.

Not every thunderstorm is considered severe. Only storms that produce wind gusts of 58 mph or higher OR hail one-inch or larger OR produce a tornado are classified as severe.

ALL thunderstorms produce lightning. That’s exactly why they’re called thunderstorms. You simply can’t have a thunderstorm without it.

Lightning is dangerous. It can kill you in an instant and without much warning. You do not want to be outdoors in a thunderstorm – even if the storm is far off. Thunderstorms can produce lightning up to 10 miles out. If you are outdoors and you hear thunder, get to shelter immediately and stay there until the storm passes.

  • No place outside is safe when a thunderstorm is in your area.
  • If you HEAR thunder you are close enough to a storm to be struck.
  • When thunder roars, get indoors.
  • A thunderstorm-safe shelter is a building that contains electrical wiring and/or plumbing. A metal-topped vehicle is also a safe shelter. A dugout or picnic shelter is not safe.

Eric Wilhelm, a meteorologist who grew up in New Philadelphia and currently works in Youngstown, has one of my favorite wind sayings – Wind is wind. It doesn’t matter if a strong wind comes from a tornado, a downburst, or just a straight-line thunderstorm wind. The damage and threat to your safety are the same.

There have been 275 wind damage reports in Tuscarawas County since 1955

The vast majority of severe storm warnings in our area are due to the threat of damaging wind gusts. Many people put far too little value on the potential damage high non-tornadic wind can cause. They most certainly can bring down trees and tree limbs, knock down power poles, blow down structures, cause extensive roof damage, and propel objects into your house and through windows. That’s not something to brush off so lightly.

The second threat that often prompts a severe warning in our area is large hail. Hail of one-inch or larger can cause serious injury of you happen to be outdoors. It will also cause serious damage to your home, outbuildings, and vehicles.

A total of 95 hail damage reports have occurred in Tuscarawas County.

The fact is, tornadoes are not all that common in our area. Not every severe storm develops the right conditions to produce a tornado. Weather records show that only about 10-percent of severe thunderstorms produce a tornado. That being said, tornadoes – even weak ones – can be extremely dangerous. You must get to your safe place immediately when a tornado warning is issued in your area.

16 confirmed tornadoes have occurred in Tuscarawas County since 1955.

Knowing exactly what the storm threat is can alter your shelter and preparedness plan. ANY thunderstorm can be dangerous and a threat to life or injury. It’s fairly easy to learn what the specific threat(s) are a couple of days before the event by using the outlooks I discussed in yesterday’s article. Pay particular attention to the specific threat(s) when a severe watch and warning are issued. Yes, there can be more than one threat.

The odds of severe storms or a tornado hitting your home or neighborhood is low, but by no means zero. It only takes one storm – the one that hits your neighborhood – that becomes YOUR disaster.

Part of my personal mission with TuscWeather is to help my friends and neighbors become more aware of our local weather and the threats we face here in Tuscarawas County. I’ve lived long enough to witness first-hand the sadness, death, and destruction Mother Nature can do. I encourage you to take simple steps to become more aware and better prepared for what may be an active storm season.

You can help by sharing info with your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Be safe out there.



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