On Sunday, the National Weather Service announced that this week, from April 26 to May 2, is severe weather awareness week in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Locally in our region of eastern New York and western New England, we certainly are not immune to severe weather. In an average year, about nine tornadoes occur in New York and another six across New England. Hundreds of severe thunderstorms bringing damaging wind and large hail rumble across the northeast each year. Today’s topic of severe weather awareness will be reviewing severe weather terms and definitions.
A severe thunderstorm must have certain criteria to be defined as severe. Severe thunderstorms are those that produce winds of 58 mph or greater, hail of one inch in diameter or larger, and/or a tornado. When conditions are developing for the potential of severe thunderstorms to occur, a severe thunderstorm watch will be issued. In a watch, people should continue with their daily routine but be prepared to a place of safety should a severe thunderstorm warning be issued. When a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, it means that conditions typical of a severe thunderstorm are imminent or occurring and that there is a significant threat to life and property. People should seek shelter immediately in a severe thunderstorm warning and remain alert for a possible tornado.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with the ground and attached to the cloud base of a thunderstorm above. Similar to a severe thunderstorm watch, a tornado watch is issued when conditions are right for severe thunderstorms to develop with the potential to produce tornadoes in the next several hours. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is imminent or occurring and a significant threat to life and property is likely. Shelter should be taken in a basement or interior room of a sturdy structure immediately, and remain there until the threat has passed.
Summer thunderstorms can and often do produce flash flooding. Flash flooding is a rapid rise, typically within six hour or less, of water along a stream or low lying urban area. Torrential downpours from summer thunderstorms is the most common cause of flash floods. When a flash flood watch is issued, conditions are right and favorable for flash flooding and those in flood prone areas should be prepared to head to a place of safety or higher ground should a flash flood warning be issued. When a flash flood warning is issued, flash flooding is imminent or already occurring and since flood waters can rise rapidly in a flash flood, those in flood prone areas may need to immediately evacuate to higher ground or possibly even be rescued after becoming trapped.
There are many ways to receive watch and warning information from the National Weather Service, including the best way which is a NOAA weather radio. Every home in American should have a NOAA weather radio. Local television and radio media also broadcast severe weather alerts over their airwaves and computers or wireless devices can also receive warnings.
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