Severe Weather Awareness Week- Monday: Severe Thunderstorms

Severe Thunderstorms


A severe thunderstorm is consider any thunderstorms that produces 1.00″ diameter hail or winds guts in excess of 58 mph.

Over the last five years there have been nearly 5000 reports of large hail and damaging wind statewide resulting in over thirty two million dollars in damage. Severe thunderstorms are also responsible for injuries and even deaths in the state resulting from lightning, high wind and tornadoes. The severe thunderstorm season in North Carolina typically starts in March and does not end until late
in the fall.

In 2009 warnings issued by National Weather Service offices provided An average of 19 minutes for severe wind and hail, with detection rate of ninety percent. It is worth noting that the National Weather Service does not issue warnings for lightning and given the deadly nature of lightning you should always be aware of the lightning danger anytime a thunderstorm is nearby. A good rule of thumb to
live by is when thunder roars go indoors.


In the last 5 years severe thunderstorms in North Carolina have produced hail as large as tennis balls and even baseballs across northwest North Carolina. While hail is not usually life threatening, these large chunks of ice cause serious damage to roofs, automobiles, and crops. Hail season in North Carolina typically runs from mid March through early July, typically peaking
in May.

Hailstones grow in thunderstorms with strong updrafts. These strong upward moving currents of air keep the ice suspended inside the thunderstorm…allowing the chunks of ice or hailstones to grow larger and larger. Once the hail become too heavy for the updrafts to keep suspended…they fall to earth as hail.


Severe gusts of wind from a thunderstorm called downbursts or straight line wind are a serious danger. Nationally over the last 30 years nearly as many people have been killed by straight winds as from tornadoes. Thunderstorm gusts rush down from the storms sometimes reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph. Thunderstorm wind of this magnitude impact large areas creating widespread damage and injuries. Damaging straight line winds can cause damage equivalent to that of a tornado.

Lines of well organized thunderstorms…called squall lines…occasionally move across North Carolina in the
spring and early summer. These dangerous storm systems can be very explosive racing across the state at over 50 mph creating widespread wind damage over entire counties.

Damaging wind events in North Carolina typically start as early as mid march and run into august. Damaging thunderstorm wind events are most notable from may through early August which is much longer than the typical severe hail season.

You can protect yourself during thunderstorms by remembering this phrase…hide from the wind and lightning. Stay away from windows when storms approach and seek shelter in an interior bathroom or closet when the wind really starts to blow.

Your best line of defense against severe thunderstorms…is to stay informed. There are so many great outdoor activities across the state of North Carolina and severe weather can bring a quick end to a days pleasure. Listen to NOAA all-hazards weather radio, television or local radio for the latest forecasts and possible threat of thunderstorms and severe weather. If warnings are issued…take action and protect your family and property. Remember being safe is a lot better than being sorry.


Severe Weather Awarness week continues, Coming Tuesday: The topic is lightning stay tuned…….