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What kinds of storms will new severe weather alerts catch?


(WYTV) – There was a change that took effect last week to the list of weather alerts that will set of your phone.

The National Weather Service made a new addition to the warnings that will trigger the wireless emergency alert system on your cell phone. Now, certain severe thunderstorm warnings will also set off your phone.

The warnings will now be classified into three tiers: A base warning, considerable and destructive.

A base severe thunderstorm warning is 58 MPH winds. Usually, trees three to six inches in diameter can come down, and you might see hail the size of quarters.

Considerable is 70 MPH winds, and you can get golf ball-sized hail.

Destructive is 80 MPH winds with baseball-sized hail or larger.

The destructive tier level storms will now trigger the wireless Emergency Alert System on phones.

The reason for the change? To better alert you to dangerous weather.

“When we talked to people, they say, ‘Well, I did not know it was going to be that bad. How do I know it’s going to be that bad?’ even though the information is in the warning — winds upwards of 89 miles per hour. How do we differentiate that?” said Fred McMullen, warning coordination meteorologist at NWS Pittsburgh.

This differentiation will only be used on the most severe of severe storms — those producing hurricane force winds or baseball sized hail.

“So again, it’s not going to alert your phone every time we issue a severe thunderstorm warning, which is good. It’s going to alert you to those rare instances where you could not have power for days or have baseball-sized hail that causes significant damage to your car windows, the windows of your house, that really poses a significant risk to your life and property,” McMullen said.

Baseball-sized hail has been known to come through roofs of homes, and 80 MPH winds would be equal to a category one hurricane or EF0 tornado.

With these alerts being reserved for higher end severe storms, taking proper precautions is a must when you see them.

“You want to be someplace safe, in a basement, in an interior room, away from windows is the best protocol when one of these alerts hits your phone,” McMullen said.

Other alerts from the National Weather Service that will set off your phone include tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, warnings for hurricanes, storm surge, extreme wind, dust storms and snow squalls.

When was the last time we had storms that reached these thresholds?

These are not going to be very common. The hail threshold is rare and there are only a few instances on record since 1950 of hail at or above baseball size.

  • 6/2/1998 – Columbiana, Leetonia
  • 5/14/2014 – East Liverpool
  • 4/9/2015 – West Point
  • 5/28/2019 – Sandy Lake

Hail is a little easier to judge since it leaves behind physical evidence, Winds are based on estimates, so it would take a really strong wind signature on radar, or a specific type of storm, like a long-duration wind event from a Derecho to trigger this based on wind.

This is a list of the last occurrences of estimated wind speeds at or above 80 MPH based on storm surveys after the storms passed:

  • 7/8/2014 – Jackson Center – 82 MPH
  • 11/5/2017 – Boardman – 95 MPH
  • 11/5/2017 – West Farmington – 80 MPH
  • 6/10/2020 – Rogers, Bessemer – 80 MPH

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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