Weekend Weather Blog: Understanding severe weather risks
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — On Saturday (April 16), the Storm Prediction Center issued a marginal risk of severe thunderstorms, citing damaging winds and hail as the threats for potential severe weather across the entire KMVT viewing area. What does this mean for you, though? In this week’s weekend weather blog, we’re going to explain each of the severe weather risks, and what you need to do to prepare.
There are 5 levels to the severe weather risks, and each of them have to do with the coverage, and (often) intensity of the severe weather threat. Let’s start with the most common risk issued - the marginal risk. This is issued when the ingredients are in place, but these ingredients are typically weak, or disorganized. This means that, of all the storms that pop up in that environment, only one or two will attain severe wind, hail, or perhaps a tornado.
Level two is the slight risk. This is issued when the ingredients are slightly stronger, and more organized for storms to tap into. This means that, of all the storms the pop up within the slight risk area, about half of them will attain severe characteristics. However, the intensity of the characteristics (i.e., how strong the winds, or how large the hail is) will likely be on the lower end of the severe scale.
Level three is the enhanced risk. This is issued when there is high confidence that the ingredients in place will generate multiple severe thunderstorms within the enhanced risk area. There may also be one or two thunderstorms within this risk area that attain significant severe weather, such as hail that is larger than a golf ball, or winds greater than 70 mph.
Level 4 is the moderate risk. This is when severe weather outbreaks are likely, and is only issued when the ingredients in place are almost certain to produce widespread severe thunderstorms. One or two significant severe thunderstorms are to be expected in the case of a moderate risk, causing severe damage to property.
Lastly, level 5 is the high risk. This is typically only issued in extreme cases severe weather setups, and is rare. If your location is under a high risk of severe thunderstorms, chances are that a memorable severe weather, and likely tornado outbreak will be occurring. Widespread significant severe weather is to be expected on high risk days, with loss of life, and severe damage to property expected. It is a rare occurrence that a high risk is issued.
Fortunately, Idaho usually only sees marginal risks of severe weather, with only one or two thunderstorms going severe for any given event. However, just because it’s a marginal risk doesn’t mean you won’t see potential damage. In fact last summer, Buhl saw widespread damage due to a microburst occurring. This produced very strong winds, and knocked down numerous trees.
What can you do to stay prepared? It’s important to keep in mind that these risks themselves aren’t severe weather warnings, and don’t guarantee that a location will see a severe thunderstorm that day. It does mean, though, that you need to listen for potential warnings that could be issued later in the day. If you are placed under a warning, that means it’s time to take action.
Chances are that, if you’re under a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning that you’ll have at least 5 minutes to make final preparations. Make sure your car is protected underneath a shed or garage to keep it from being damaged by hail or a falling tree. Go inside to a room away from windows to make sure you’re safe from the elements outdoors. If you’re driving on the roads, it’s best to pull off to a nearby gas station, convenient store, or restaurant until the storm has passed.
Mobile homes also aren’t an ideal location for severe weather. Go to a nearby site-built structure, and take cover there until the threat has passed
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