It’s time for day two of Severe Weather Awareness Week! Now, we’ll all familiar with thunderstorms and severe storms, because they’re just part of life in the Great Plains. But for anyone who might be new to the area or just looking for a quick reminder, let’s look at the difference between the two. Read on and also watch the video above from Meteorologist Mark Stitz!
A thunderstorm contains rain, lightning, and thunder. But sometimes, a thunderstorm becomes even stronger with hail and wind. Once wind speeds reach 58 mph or higher or a storm begins to produce hail with a diameter of one inch (think quarter size) or more, it becomes a severe thunderstorm and the National Weather Service will issue a severe thunderstorm warning.
So, we know hail is associated with a severe thunderstorm, but how does hail form? When the warm updrafts that helped create the thunderstorm in the first place become strong enough, raindrops in a storm will be pushed higher into the storm where temperatures are below freezing. Those frozen droplets are now hail and start to fall again. As it falls, it collects more water from other raindrops and can be pushed back up into the freezing layer if the updraft is strong enough. The collected water freezes again and forms another layer of ice, which is why you can see hail stones with distinct “rings” of ice. Once the hail is heavy enough or the updraft weak enough, it falls through the storm and then we see the hail reach the surface. As we know, hail can come in all different shapes and sizes.
Keep in mind, you need to react appropriately to both thunderstorms and severe storms. For a “regular” thunderstorm, you need to stay inside. You also need to keep away from windows, pipes, and any plugged-in electronics. When a severe storm is heading your way or ongoing, it’s safest for you to go to your home’s safe room, which is on the lowest level and in the center of the building.