New “Destructive” Severe Thunderstorm Warning category to trigger Wireless Emergency Alerts on mobile phones

August 2, 2021

Severe thunderstorms can be life-threatening, but not all severe storms are the same. Hazardous conditions range from tornadoes, large hail storms, and widespread straight-line winds called derechoes, to cloud-to-ground lightning and flash flooding. 

Starting 2-Aug-2021, the National Weather Service will better convey the severity and potential impacts from thunderstorm winds and hail by adding a “damage threat” tag to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, similar to their Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.

“Destructive” and “Considerable” Damage Threat Categories

NWS developed 3 categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The categories, in order of highest to lowest damage threat, are destructive, considerable, and base. These tags and additional messaging are designed to promote immediate action, based on the threats.

  • 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.
     
  • 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.
     
  • 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, damage is expected to be at the base level.

On average, only 10% of all severe thunderstorms reach the destructive category each year, nationwide. Most of these storms are damaging wind events such as derechoes and some of the larger, more intense thunderstorms, called “Supercell” storms that can typically produce very large hail in their path.

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. Storms categorized as destructive will trigger a WEA to your cell phone.

Find some severe weather safety tips on weather.gov and download our free 67-page preparedness ebook plus some other safety tips at fedhealth.net

Source: Weather.gov


Free preparedness ebook and other Hurricane Preparedness Week resources

May 13, 2021

Every year the NWS’ Hurricane Preparedness Week helps families get prepared and be ready for hurricane season.

The Pacific hurricane season starts May 15, and the Atlantic season (for now) starts June 1 although they are considering moving it up to mid-May as well someday.

During HPW we encourage you, your loved ones and communities in both Atlantic and Pacific hurricane-prone areas (and areas hundreds of miles inland that also get storms and flooding) learn how to…

  • determine your personal hurricane risk;
  • find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone;
  • review/update insurance policies;
  • make a list of items to replenish hurricane emergency supplies;
  • and start thinking about how you will prepare your home for the coming hurricane season.

Download and share a free 67-page PDF portion of our It’s A Disaster! book with tips on how to make a family plan and various kits, prepare for and respond to hurricanes, floods, evacuations and more at fedhealth.net.

And find and share some Hurricane Preparedness Week tips and resources on USFRA.org


Lightning Safety Myths and Facts

March 6, 2021

Check out some lightning Myths versus Facts from the National Weather Service

Myth: If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning Myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!

Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

Myth: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.
Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.

Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones, Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter – don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.

Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.

Myth: lightning flashes are 3-4 km apart
Fact: Old data said successive flashes were on the order of 3-4 km apart. New data shows half the flashes are about 9 km apart. The National Severe Storms Laboratory report concludes: “It appears the safety rules need to be modified to increase the distance from a previous flash which can be considered to be relatively safe, to at least 10 to 13 km (6 to 8 miles). In the past, 3 to 5 km (2-3 miles) was as used in lightning safety education.” Source: Separation Between Successive Lightning Flashes in Different Storms Systems: 1998, Lopez & Holle, from Proceedings 1998 Intl Lightning Detection Conference, Tucson AZ, November 1998.

Myth: A High Percentage of Lightning Flashes Are Forked.
Fact: Many cloud-to-ground lightning flashes have forked or multiple attachment points to earth. Tests carried out in the US and Japan verify this finding in at least half of negative flashes and more than 70% of positive flashes. Many lightning detectors cannot acquire accurate information about these multiple ground lightning attachments. Source: Termination of Multiple Stroke Flashes Observed by Electro- Magnetic Field: 1998, Ishii, et al. Proceedings 1998 Int’l Lightning Protection Conference, Birmingham UK, Sept. 1998.

Myth: Lightning Can Spread out Some 60 Feet After Striking Earth.
Fact: Radial horizontal arcing has been measured at least 20 m. from the point where lightning hits ground. Depending on soils characteristics, safe conditions for people and equipment near lightning termination points (ground rods) may need to be re-evaluated. Source: 1993 Triggered Lightning Test Program: Environments Within 20 meters of the Lightning Channel and Small Are Temporary Protection Concepts: 1993, SAND94-0311, Sandia Natl Lab, Albuquerque NM.

Find some Lightning Safety tips here and download a free 67-page PDF portion of our preparedness and first aid ebook.

Resources:

• National Weather Service Lightning Safety

• NWS Toolkit for Counties and Communities, Stadiums, Parks and Large Venues, and Golf Courses

• NWS Tools for Teachers  


Information and tips about NOAA Weather Radios

August 28, 2012

NOAA Weather RadioA critical tool every family and business should have in the home, kits and office are battery (or hand crank) radios so you can receive news and updates during an emergency. But another tool to consider is a weather radio.

NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts National Weather Service (NWS) warnings, watches, forecasts, and other non-weather related hazard information 24 hours a day.

During an emergency, NWS sends a special tone that activates weather radios in the listening area. Weather radios equipped with a special alarm tone feature can sound an alert and give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation.

NOAA Weather RadioNOAA Weather Radios are found in most electronics stores and departments and cost about $25 – $100. Some features to consider are alarm tone, battery backup, and “Specific Area Message Encoding” (SAME) programming.

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards – weather (blizzards, thunderstorms, etc.), natural (floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes), technological (chemical or oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, etc.), and national emergencies.

NOAA collaborates with other Federal agencies and the FCC’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to issue non-weather related emergency messages including the issuance of “AmberAlerts”.

Options for those with Special Needs

NOAA Weather Radio offers nonverbal information imbedded in its broadcasts to provide timely, critical warnings of life threatening events to the hearing impaired. Some receivers are equipped with special output connectors that activate alerting devices such as vibrators, bed shakers, pillow vibrators, strobe lights and other alerting systems. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/info/shhh.html for more information.

Programming Your NOAA Weather Radio

If you purchase a Weather Radio receiver with “Specific Area Message Encoding”, you should program it with coding for your area. By doing so, you can limit the alerts which will trigger your weather radio to only those affecting your warning area.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions to program your receiver using the six-digit SAME code(s) for the warning areas of interest to you.

For more about NOAA Weather Radios visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/


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