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Heather’s Weather Whys: National Weather Service to make changes to severe weather warnings in July

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued if wind gusts of 58 mph or an inch hail is expected, but new procedures will aim to highlight the most destructive storms.
Credit: WGRZ

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the era of smart mobile devices, severe weather warnings are more accessible than ever. You can have apps on your phone set to alert you if a warning is issued for your location. Of course, that warning has to be issued by someone and that someone is with your local National Weather Service office.

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When forecasters at the NWS are analyzing a stormy weather pattern and considering issuing a severe thunderstorm warning, they’re looking at two main criteria: whether or not a storm can produce damaging winds of at least 58 mph or whether or not a storm can produce hailstones of at least an inch in diameter. If the answer to either one of those questions is “yes”, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued for a specific region. 

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But of course, storms can and have brought winds far stronger than 58 mph and there’s a big difference in the damage that a 58 mph gust can do compared to an 80 mph gust. Same thing goes for a one-inch hailstone vs a two or three-inch hailstone. That’s why starting in July, Buffalo’s National Weather Service office will begin adding special tags to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings when particularly dangerous or destructive conditions are possible. Below are the two new warning tiers that will be used in addition to the current criteria.

Credit: WGRZ

If forecasters believe a storm could produce 80 mph wind gusts or baseball-sized hail, a wireless emergency alert system will be activated and whether you have a weather app or not, your phone will alert you to the approaching danger.

We hope you’re already a user of the weather section on WGRZ’s free mobile app but if you don’t have it yet, click here! It’s an easy way to check for warnings or just peek at the radar before you head out the door. We’ve also got you covered on air, on our website and on social media. 

New episodes of Heather’s Weather Whys are posted to the WGRZ YouTube channel every Wednesday evening. 

If you have a weather question for me to answer, send it to heather.waldman@wgrz.com or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.


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