Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Severe Weather Awareness Week... Day 3

Tuesday’s Post: “Thunderstorm Safety”
(Information courtesy of the National Weather Service)

Thunderstorms can occur any time of the year in Georgia, as long as conditions are right for them to develop. However, the strongest thunderstorms usually occur in spring and summer, when plenty of warm, humid air is available for thunderstorms to grow.

Although some thunderstorms can have very intense lightning and thunder, they are not classified as “severe” unless they meet at least one of the following criteria:
- the thunderstorm has winds greater than 57 mph
- the thunderstorm produces hail greater than ¾ inch (the size of a penny)
- the thunderstorm produces a tornado

However, you should still seek shelter for all thunderstorms, even if they are not severe, because all thunderstorms have lightning (see Thursday’s post about lightning).

You may have noticed one day that a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for your area, but it wasn’t even raining outside! Well, the reason is that watches are issued to get people prepared before thunderstorms develop. So a “Severe Thunderstorm Watch” means the weather conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm to develop, but it is not in your area yet (for example, the storms might not have developed or they are still a distance away). When your area is under a watch, it’s time to get prepared in case the weather gets worse. If it does, the National Weather Service will issue a “Severe Thunderstorm Warning,” which means a severe thunderstorm has been detected and it’s an imminent threat to your area. If you haven’t done so before, it’s time to get to safety NOW. Remain in your storm safety area until the warning has expired.

You can find out if watches and warnings are issued for your area by listening to your NOAA weather radio or your tv, or by logging on to CBS46.com.

If thunderstorms are headed for your area, go inside a sturdy building and avoid using the phone and other electrical appliances; if lightning strikes your building, it can travel through the wires to you. The same situation can happen with plumbing, so avoid showering during a thunderstorm. If you are outside when thunderstorms threaten, try to find a shelter in a sturdy building or hop into your vehicle as a last resort. Avoid gazebos, trees, and golf carts, because they provide little protection and can actually attract lightning.

If you see storm damage, wait until the thunderstorm passes and then call the National Weather Service at 1-866-763-4466. If you see hail, be sure to describe what size coin it is. For more information about thunderstorms, check out the NWS’s webpage.

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