WeatherWeather Blog


New "destructive" tag added to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings to trigger Wireless Emergency Alert

A new "damage threat" tag to be added
Posted at 5:05 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 15:58:57-04

If you’ve ever found yourself near the issuing of an Amber Alert or under a tornado warning, you likely had your phone go off and make a terribly loud noise. The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are a great way to reach many people quickly. Now, thanks to a new update around severe weather alerts, you could hear that alert tone a bit more often. (But not too often, don’t worry!)

Example Severe Weather WEA

As of Monday, August 2nd , the National Weather Service will add a new “damage threat” tag to severe thunderstorm warnings to better convey severity and potential impacts from an incoming storm. The two new tags will be “Considerable” and “Destructive.”

Before we hop into what these new tags will mean and do, let’s do a quick recap of baseline severe criteria. To be considered a “severe thunderstorm,” a storm needs to have 58 mph wind gusts and/or hail that is an inch in diameter (or quarter-sized). This will NOT activate a WEA.

Severe Storm Criteria1.png

The “Considerable” damage threat criteria is at least 1.75 inch in diameter hail (or golf ball-sized) and/or 70 mph wind gusts. This will NOT activate a WEA.

Severe Storm Criteria2.png

The “Destructive” damage threat criteria is at least 2.75 inch in diameter hail (baseball-sized) and/or 80 mph wind gusts. This WILL activate a WEA on smartphones within the area covered by the warning.

Severe Storm Criteria3.png

The NWS says, on average, only 10 percent of all severe storms reach the destructive category each year in the US. The goal is to alert people to storms that will "require urgent action as a life-threatening event is occurring and may cause substantial damage."