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With the incredible forces they wield, storms are capable of changing thousands of lives in minutes. While all thunderstorms are dangerous, the National Weather Service (NWS) defines a severe thunderstorm
 Produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter. as one that:
 Has winds of 58 miles per hour or greater.
 Produces a tornado.

Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines. Some of the most severe weather occurs when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.

The risks associated with severe thunderstorms include:

Lightning - Although most victims of lightning strikes do survive, 75 to 100 people in the United States are killed each year by lightning—more than are killed each year by tornadoes. Lightning also causes an estimated 5 billion dollars in economic losses each year in the United States.

Hail - Hail can be smaller than a tear or as large as a softball and can cause destruction to automobiles, glass surfaces, roofs, plants, and crops. Pets and livestock are particularly vulnerable to hail.

Downbursts and straight-line winds - Thunderstorms can produce winds as high as 150 miles per hour, strong enough to flip cars, vans, and trucks. These winds can have disastrous effects on air travel.

Flash floods - Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding. Flash floods are the number one cause of death associated with thunderstorms.

Tornadoes - Some thunderstorms may spawn tornadoes.


The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center issues watches and warnings of hazardous weather, including severe thunderstorms. Keep your NOAA Weather Radio handy!

A WATCH is issued when severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Citizens should be alert for approaching storms.


A WARNING is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Lightning often strikes outside areas of heavy rain and can occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. In fact, more than 50 percent of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed.

There is a need to prepare for severe thunderstorms and there are steps that you can take. 

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