Like tornadoes, thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year and just about anywhere in the world. Thunderstorms are often classified by where they form and what kind of weather they produce.
In the United States, some of the most powerful thunderstorms occur in the Midwest and the Southern states. Despite this, thunderstorms can also be found in the more inland area of the West Coast, or certain areas of the Rocky Mountains.
What Is A Thunderstorm?
A thunderstorm—also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, or a thundershower—is a form of turbulent weather characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth’s atmosphere known as thunder.
By definition, a severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that contains any one or more of the following three weather conditions:
- Hail that is ¾ of an inch or greater in diameter
- Winds 58 miles per hour or greater
Thunderstorms can potentially lead to other dangerous weather phenomena, like hailstones, flash flooding, or tornadoes.
Safety & Preparedness
Thunderstorms can be forecasted, and warnings are usually issued three times daily during the height of thunderstorm season. While thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year, the most common time of year are the spring and summer months when the air is warm and moist.
While thunderstorms can pass somewhat uneventfully, it can lead to other dangerous weather disasters such as flash flooding and tornadoes. Additionally, the lightning that accompanies thunderstorms can occur frequently and can be deadly if encountered.
Watch the local news broadcasts for updated, and be aware of the 4 key alerts:
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch—Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning—A severe thunderstorm has been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes or cause damage from their strong wind gusts and/ or hail.
- Tornado Watch—Conditions are conducive to the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.
- Tornado Warning—A tornado has been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area.
Prepare you property in the event of high winds and flooding—remove dead or rotting limbs and trees, and board up windows and other glass paned structures if possible.
If storms are imminent or in progress, follow these thunderstorm safety precautions:
- Take action immediately upon hearing thunder—anyone close enough to a storm to hear thunder can be struck by lightning.
- Avoid electrical appliances, including corded telephones.
- Do not bathe or shower, as plumbing conducts electricity.
- If driving, safely exit the roadway and stop. Remain in the vehicle and avoid touching metal.
- Minimize contact with the ground.