CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We have had a few severe thunderstorm warnings this evening so I thought I'd take a moment to clarify what exactly that means. "Severe" is often used as an adjective to describe weather, but there is actually a meteorological definition of a severe thunderstorm.
When the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning, they are concerned about either 1) damaging straight-line winds of 58mph or greater, 2) hail of quarter-sized (1" diameter) or larger, OR 3) a tornado.
Most of the time these threats are not ALL present at once. Typically, one severe weather day will be conducive to one or two of those parameters over the other, with tornadoes of course being the least common.
However, all of those severe weather threats could pose a threat to life and/or property, which is why it is important to take every severe thunderstorm warning seriously and always seek shelter indoors when possible.
While we're at it, we'll touch on the difference between a watch and a warning. If widespread severe weather is expected on any particular day, the Storm Prediction Center may issue a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, or even a Tornado Watch, if the threat is high for tornadoes.
A "watch" means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather. Think: "Watch out! Storms are possible!" Watches typically last a few hours and span several counties/states.
A warning is what is issued when the threat is actually occurring. It affects a smaller area for a shorter amount of time. Whether it is a severe thunderstorm or a tornado, a warning means the threat is observed or on the way. This is when you want to head indoors immediately, or if we are talking about a tornado warning, head to your family's safe place. Warnings typically last less than an hour and span 2-4 counties.
Remember, you can get all severe storm alerts, including watches and warnings, as well as lightning alerts, sent right to your mobile device by downloading the FREE WBTV weather app!