• I see lightning, why is this storm not severe?

    By: Megan McClellan


    Green Country is settling into severe weather season, meaning there is the chance of thunderstorms, hail, strong winds, tornadoes, etc.

    Not everything thunderstorm fits into the "severe" classification. You can have thunder and lightning without the storm being severe.

    Every thunderstorm has lightning, but not every thunderstorm is severe.

    Lightning is a charge in the atmosphere being discharged. It is very high in voltage and typically doesn't last long. Lightning can occur without thunder, also known as "heat lightning."

    So if lightning doesn't make a thunderstorm severe, what does?

    Well, there are two things that can happen that makes a thunderstorm severe.

    First is hail that is 1 inch in diameter or greater, that means hail is the size of a quarter or larger.

    Quarter sized hail. This is one qualification for a storm to be severe.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Hail is dangerous and can cause large amounts of damage, especially as the size gets larger. This was seen in Coweta at the end of April.

    The second thing that could make a thunderstorm severe is winds of at least 58 miles per hour. Think of a highway that you are going 60 mph on - that is how strong these winds must be.

    Snapped or uprooted trees are very common to see with severe thunderstorm wind damage.

    Tree partially on a house on 305th E Ave and 151 St S. Taken by FOX23's Preston Jones.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Now that we know what it takes for a thunderstorm to be severe, let's go into more detail about the different qualifications.

    What exactly is hail? It is small ice particles and extremely cold water droplets that are lifted into a thunderstorm (updraft). The droplets and particles combine and start to fall, but the updraft pulls them back into the thunderstorm and into the freezing levels, allow the stones to grow in size. As the stones get bigger, they will eventually get bigger than the updraft can handle. At this point, the hail stones start to fall towards the ground.

    Hail stones can be as small as a penny (3/4") to a tennis ball (2.50") to grapefruit sized (4.50") or larger. 

    Hail Size Comparison Chart courtesy of NOAA and NWS.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    FOX23 Meteorologist Michael Seger says grapefruit size is not the largest that hail can grow to. "The largest hailstone ever recorded fell in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010. The hail stone was 7.9" in diameter and weighed a whopping 1.94 pounds!"

    Largest hail stone from Vivian, South Dakota.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    As mentioned above, every thunderstorm has lightning, but why is that important? Well, even if a thunderstorm is not severe, lightning is still one of the most dangerous aspects of a thunderstorm. It can strike up to 10 miles outside the main area of the thunderstorm. Even if you can not see the lightning, if you hear thunder - you are close enough to get struck by lightning. When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.

    Staying weather aware of not only the threat of severe weather, but also what is in each storm (i.e. hail, strong winds, etc) is very important.

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