There’s been much talk in recent weeks of a more detailed method of describing the potential for severe weather now being employed by the Storm Prediction Center in its Convective Outlooks. The SPC worked with National Weather Service offices, communications experts and consumers of its products to expand its long time use of the “Slight, Moderate and High” risk categories to “Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, Moderate and High.”
In addition, the chart below describes what the storms might look like under each newly-defined category and what the main threats would be.
The Storm Prediction Center has many products that can be used by broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers and the general public to look as far as 8 days ahead. These tools are especially valuable for planning purposes and should never supplant your detailed local forecast.
The Mesoscale Discussions are particularly helpful on days when severe weather is expected. The discussions are issued on an “as needed” basis as storm threats develop. Other tools are updated as often as four times a day. If you’ve never visited the site at spc.noaa.gov, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the offerings.
On this April Fools Day, we’ll be discussing hail. Hail is widespread throughout the world, but doesn’t often have the top of mind awareness of other storm-related topics…unless, that is, you’re growing crops or insuring buildings or vehicles. According to the National Weather Service’s hail page, the average loss from hail each year is about a billion dollars. However, in 2001 there was one storm event that eventually stretched from Kansas City to Illinois that caused $2-billion damage on a single day.
Hail is not normally considered a major threat to human life. The last reported fatality in the United States was in 2000 when a Texas man died after being struck by a softball sized hail stone. Two children reportedly perished in Russia in 2014. Livestock losses are reported from time to time.
The National Weather Service rates hail from less than a quarter inch or pea sized to over 4 inches or softball sized. The preferred references are actual measurements or approximations based on fixed sizes such as a quarter or a regulation sized softball. “Grapefruit sized” is a far less precise term. One of the reasons for using common objects as references is it allows storm spotters and others to report the size without venturing out into a storm with its associated risks to take actual measurements.
The largest hail stone reported in the U.S was over 8 inches in diameter with a circumference of over 18 inches.
Crop loss from hail is a significant risk to producers. Depending on where crops are in the growth cycle and the extent of the damage, growers are often cautioned to have a little patience to determine if the crops can bounce back. Many state extension services can provide more information.
Damage to vehicles is usually pretty obvious in terms of dents and broken glass. There are some DIY fixes for smaller dents including letting the vehicle sit in the hot sun so the metal expands a bit. The best advice though is to contact your insurance carrier and/or a competent body shop. A worst case scenario is when a new car dealer’s lot or other parking lot is hit. Damage can easily escalate into six figures or more. Several years ago here in the Champaign-Urbana area, dozens and dozens of cars parked at the local airport were badly damaged.
Hail can also damage roofs constructed of various materials. Again, working with your insurance carrier to arrange for an inspection by a qualified roofer is always a good idea. Some damage may be hard for the untrained eye to see and ladder work is often best left to professionals anyway.
Siding on homes also can be easily damaged. Steel or aluminum siding can be dented and still maintain its structural and weatherproof integrity. Hail can absolutely shred vinyl siding and immediate action to cover exposed underlayment or insulation is necessary to avoid more widespread water damage.
One question that is often asked is, does the presence of hail, especially large hail, tell us anything about the structure of a thunderstorm? Since hail is formed when water droplets freeze as they are lifted above the 32-degree line by updrafts, it stands to reason that the presence of ever larger hail stones in a storm reflects the strength of that updraft so it can be an indicator of both the strength and height of a thunderstorm cell. Hail is easily seen on radar because of its dense mass. Many videos shot by storm chasers show large hail as part of some tornadic thunderstorms.
Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant
Last week we discussed what to do to prepare, before a hurricane forms. This week we will discuss what to during a hurricane in your area. Even though there are no hurricanes on either side of the US currently, it is never too early to prepare!
1. Listen to a weather radio or app
The best way to stay informed during a hurricane is to listen to a weather radio. Nowadays there are apps that do the same thing, but I would be wary about using them during a storm because the power may be out and your phone can die quickly when using them. You may ask, why should I listen to the weather radio, I already know a hurricane is in my area. Because hurricanes can cause other natural disasters such as: tornadoes, hail, flooding, and landslides. The best way to be prepared for these is to be informed.
2. Ensure food & water availability
One important thing to have during a hurricane is enough food and water for you and your family. The issue with this, is having food that can be eaten without power. For a list of suggested ready to eat food to have, visit this website. For a safe water supply fill up tubs for water to flush toilets. For safe drinking water fill up large containers, estimate a gallon of water a day per person for a few days. For more water tips visit here.
3. Ensure (cold) food safety
One easy way to keep cold food safe is to turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. If the fridge temperature rises above 40 degrees for more than two hours go ahead and discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, leftovers, fish, and eggs. If your freezer rises above 40 degrees for an extended period of time and the food no longer has ice crystals on it throw it out. Never taste food to see if it is still good. Remember this handy tip: when in doubt, throw it out!
If you are considering evacuation, evacuate early. It reduces the stress on you and your family from traffic. If an evacuation becomes mandatory, know your evacuation routes and have a plan in place on how to reach them if they become congested. Don’t forget to already have a planned place to evacuate to, and contact them ahead of time.
I hope these tips help you feel more confident in preparing for when a hurricane is approaching your area. Remember: It is never too early to prepare!