Severe thunderstorms can be life-threatening, bringing tornadoes, cloud-to-ground lightning, hail, high winds, and flash flooding. The National Weather Service is adding a 'damage threat' to storm warnings that will soon be sent right to your phone.

Starting August 2, the National Weather Service will better convey the severity and potential impacts of thunderstorms by sending out emergency alerts. There are three categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings - destructive, considerable, and base. "The new destructive thunderstorm category conveys to the public urgent action is needed, a life-threatening event is occurring and may cause substantial damage to property."

  • Damage Threat: The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area.
  • Considerable Damage: The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.
  • Base: The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, the damage is expected to be at the base level.
  • All National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will continue to be issued and distributed via weather.gov, NOAA Weather Radio, Emergency Alert System and through dissemination systems to emergency managers and partners.

    Thirteen of the 22 costliest weather disasters in 2020 were from severe thunderstorms. "The new destructive tag would have activated a Wireless Emergency Alert for many of these impactful events, including the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history, the $11 billion derecho that affected Iowa in August 2020."

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