Conn. (WTNH) — When you tune into News 8 for the forecast, you might hear us talk about a threat for strong or severe storms. Every thunderstorm produces rain, thunder, and lightning, but for a storm to be considered severe, it must produce either a tornado, quarter-sized hail (1″), and/or wind gusts over 58 mph.
If a storm looks like it may produce a tornado, large hail, or strong winds, a severe thunderstorm warning will be issued by the local National Weather Service (NWS) office — either out of Boston, New York, or Albany.
Starting this Monday, Aug. 2, the NWS will add a “damage threat” tag to severe thunderstorm warnings. The damage threat tag will be divided into two categories: DESTRUCTIVE and CONSIDERABLE.
The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least baseball-sized hail (2.75″) and/or 80 mph winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area.
The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least golf ball-sized hail (1.75″) and/or 70 mph winds. A considerable tag will not activate a WEA.
According to Joe Dellicarpini, the science and operations officer for the NWS Boston, this new tag should better convey the severity and potential impacts.
“The goal is to increase the awareness of these higher-end events that are more than your typical severe thunderstorm day,” he explained. “We get so many warnings throughout the summer; people probably get a little numb to them after a while. If we have a tag and a WEA alert on cellphones, that’s going to get people’s attention, which is the goal.”
And maybe it seems like we have been getting a lot of severe thunderstorm warnings this year. According to Dellicarpini, the NWS Boston will issue warnings even when wind gusts are closer to 50 mph because the impact for wind damage is slightly greater in New England due to our infrastructure, population, and forestation.