What to watch for when weather turns severe - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

What to watch for when weather turns severe


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Sunday's storms in our area and Monday's video from Oklahoma remind us about the dangers of severe weather. 

However, there's a difference in the severity of weather risks we could see this spring and summer.

During this unique spring, severe weather is showing up later than usual and could make up for lost time.

"With the much warmer air in the area now, it does tend to lead to stronger thunderstorms.  Especially if you have sunshine and higher dew points, a higher amount of moisture in the air and the winds are right in the atmosphere," says meteorologist Nick Grunseth

Two things make a thunderstorm severe, "Damaging winds in excess of 58 mph or hail one inch in diameter or larger.  Of course again, both of those can happen," says Grunseth.

"Wind driven debris will cause damage to structures and injuries, if not fatalities.  That's why it's important during a thunderstorm or high winds or a tornado to seek shelter," warns Eau Claire County's emergency management coordinator, Tom Hurley.

Each thunderstorm has the potential to cause damage, it's how a storm comes together that defines the different dangers.

"A line of severe thunderstorms that had a bow shape to it and that's something we look for on radar because the bow shape is suggesting that the winds are very strong, pushing those thunderstorms along," says Grunseth.

When the line is present, think straight line winds, but when cells of the storm break off on their own, it's another matter.

"With those thunderstorms, that's where there will be rotation on the back side of the storm.  From that rotation, then you can get eventually, a tornado," says Grunseth.

When the familiar funnel or even severe thunderstorm hits the horizon, a weather warning is issued.

"A warning is much more critical.  A warning means that, that activity has been spotted either by a trained weather spotter or by Doppler radar.  A warning means it's time to take cover," says Hurley.

Compared to a watch, which is less severe and means conditions are favorable for dangerous storms.

Something you can be prepared for with an emergency kit, which includes a weather radio.

"We encourage every citizen to have a NOAA weather radio for interior notifications.  That will indicate for both watches or warnings of any watch or warning put out by the National Weather Service," says Hurley.

So you'll know when to seek shelter from the storm.

Another alert system includes storm sirens, which sound whenever a warning is issued. 

You can also sign up to receive text alerts from WQOW or download our free weather app.

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