National Weather Service changes alert system for severe thunderstorms

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.- The National Weather Service (NWS) is changing the way they alert people of severe thunderstorms nationwide with Wireless Emergency Alerts through your phones.

The new warning called “Destructive Thunderstorm Warning” started Monday and will give similar emergency alerts you get on the phone- just with more detailed information.

Instead of the one-size-fits-all Severe Thunderstorm Warning that we’re accustomed to, NWS will add a “damage threat” tag to every single warning issued. Similar to the way Tornado Warnings and Flash Flood Warnings are handled.

Dr. Ariel Cohen, Meteorologist in Charge at National Weather Service Pueblo said the alerts will help get the information out to more people in the community.

“This is an enhancement to our ability to get the word out in a way that really increases that awareness, has people’s attention a lot more focused, and really empowers people with that knowledge in order to take those immediate steps,” Cohen said.

The three threat categories are “base”, “considerable” and “destructive”. Each will come with its own description of what to expect with the severe thunderstorm affecting your area.

NWS Thunderstorm categories as of August 2.

Cohen said the alert system will alert you through your phone through a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) of the storms with the “destructive” tag.

“You’ll receive a wireless emergency alert notification on your cell phone for those specific class of severe thunderstorm warnings… when and where they occur in those rare circumstances is vitally important to put your already prepared action plans in place,” Cohen said.

NWS said the criteria for a “base” severe thunderstorm warning will not change.

  • 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds
  • You will not get an alert on your phone with this type of warning (unless you are signed up for a different service or app that sends alerts for t-storm warnings)

In the United States, only 10% of all severe thunderstorms reach the destructive category each year, on average. The NWS said most of these storms are either damaging wind events such as Derechos or supercells, which can produce very large hail along their path.

“If and when that alert comes you’re immediately ready to take that action to protect your life,” Cohen said.

All National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will continue to be issued and distributed via weather.gov, NOAA Weather Radio, and through Emergency Alert System.

For more information on Severe Weather visit their webpage.

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