SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Spring is one of the busiest times for severe weather and it's never too early to start preparing. The National Weather Service has declared this week, Severe Weather Awareness Week. Each day there is a different topic relating to severe weather safety.
Monday's topic is understanding what classifies a storm as severe. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), for a thunderstorm to become severe it must have specific criteria such as damaging winds of at least 58 miles per hour, large hail that is at least one inch in diameter, or a tornado.
Thunderstorms can produce high winds not associated with tornadoes but know as straight-line winds. This type of wind moves along the ground in a multi-directional way and can reach speeds of 100 mph or more. Straight-line winds events should be treated the same as if a tornado was approaching and you should seek shelter.
One of the other parameters of hail is defined as chunks of ice that are created within a thunderstorm. Fun fact from the NWS: the largest hailstone was measured with a circumference of 18.75 and fell in Aurora, Nebraska on June 22, 2003. Hail can cause damage to cars, buildings, and vegetation.
Tuesday's topic revolves around Flash Flood Safety. You hear the phrase: "Turn around, don't drown," from all our meteorologists here at KSLA, but what defines a flash flood? A flash flood, as defined from the NWS, is a rapid rise of water along a stream or in a low-lying area. This can result from multiple thunderstorms or a slow-moving storm and can happen within a matter of minutes.
Flash Flooding is the #1 storm-related killer in the US since people underestimate the power of water. Just 6 inches of water can make it difficult for any driver to keep control of the car. If you ever find yourself in this situation, make sure to head to higher ground and avoid areas that are already flooded.
Wednesday's topic revolves around safety related to a familiar word in the ArLaTex, tornado. Peak tornado season is quickly approaching. The season runs from March until June. One thousand tornadoes, on average, are reported every year in the United States as reported by the NWS. These are ranked after the event on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale from 1 to 5. To be safe during one of these events, make sure to go to the lowest floor in your house or building and put as many walls between you and the outside.
One of the most captivating weather phenomena, lightning, may be cool to watch but is also very dangerous. The NWS states that on average, there are around 25 million lightning strikes that reach the ground each year. Lighting can strike as much as ten miles away from where the thunderstorm is located. This is also the same distance that you can hear thunder. To be safe, make sure to head inside once you hear thunder.
The last topic is the difference between a watch and a warning. Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for severe weather. On the other hand, a warning is issued when thunderstorms or tornadoes are about to happen. These can either be observed on radar or can be seen from a storm spotter.