Severe Weather Week: Severe Thunderstorm Safety

- All week the FOX 5 Storm Team is noting Georgia Severe Weather Preparedness Week and the need for Georgian to be prepared now ahead of a severe storm.

Each day has a different theme. Tuesday’s was Severe Thunderstorm Safety.

Georgia is no stranger to thunderstorms. Sometimes they can be associated with a front moving through, as is often the case in Spring, or isolated thunderstorms, as is common in the summer months. It also isn’t uncommon for a thunderstorm to go from heavy rain to storm gusty straight-line winds, large hail, and even could spin up a tornado.

The common misconception is that all thunderstorms are severe and that is why there are warnings issued. The truth is that meteorologists use a standard list of criteria to activate a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. But when those conditions aren’t met, an advisory is often issued.

The greatest damage from a thunderstorm, as we have seen in the past, is wind damage. Based on data from 1950-2010, 18 fatalities and 325 injuries were caused by damaging wind across north and central Georgia. That typically manifests itself in trees being toppled, possibly taking power lines down at the same time. But wind damage can also be direct, ripping off aluminum siding, roof shingles, or tossing around loss items around the yard. And that’s not to even mention tornadoes, which will be covered later this week.

And in a thunderstorm, it’s not the clap of thunder, but the burst of light which also does a significant amount of damage. Georgia is ranked 9th in the nation when it comes to lightning fatalities with an average of 20 to 25 deaths per year. It doesn’t take a direct hit of lightning to be deadly. In addition, lighting can indirectly be deadly by starting fires in homes when not just leaving heavy damage. Georgians, for the past few years, have filed more insurance claims for lightning-related fires than any other state.

One element of a thunderstorm is hail. A hailstorm can be devastating to cars, roofs, and anything exposed. Most hail in Georgia is between an inch to 2 inches, but there is a history of softball-sized hail (4.5 inches) falling in the northern part of the state. May is the worst month for hail followed by April.

Yes, families should have a kit, have a plan, and most importantly, be informed. The FOX 5 Storm Team app is the best way to do that. The free app for Android and Apple users can be set up to send instant push notifications to a user’s phone whenever severe weather is happening nearby.

Learn more about the FOX 5 Storm Team app

The FOX 5 Storm Team and National Weather Service suggest these things for being storm ready:

  • The best thing to do is to have a plan of action in place before threatening weather develops. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a severe thunderstorm has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.
  • Make sure to get watch and warning information from multiple platforms. This will help ensure you receive life-saving weather information even if one method fails. NOAA Weather Radio, televisions, radios, cell phone alerts, and sirens are all different ways to receive watches and warnings and each has its own benefits.
  • If severe weather is imminent, and you are inside, move to a shelter such as a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of the building. It’s best to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Remember, even straight-line winds from a severe thunderstorm can cause damage equal in magnitude to a tornado.
  • If you are caught outside during any thunderstorm, seek shelter in a sturdy structure.

RELATED: Severe weather week: Family Preparedness

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