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Mar 23

Severe Weather Buzzwords

Posted on March 23, 2011 at 3:17 PM by Kristen Jordan

March in Kansas is a lovely time of year!  The grass turns green, the trees and flowers bloom...and our regularly scheduled television programs get interrupted with obnoxious boops, beeps, & scrolling tickers about severe weather brewing in distant parts of nowhere near us.  Ok, ok, occasionally storms happen in Jefferson County, and we should probably be prepared.

And by being prepared, we mean NOT going outside to look for the tornado when the sirens go off.

One way of being prepared is knowing what all the weather keywords mean.  Fortunately, we're with the government and we're here to help.  :)

Here's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) guide to severe weather terms to know.  For additional info, please see their page (which also features definitions for Coral Bleaching, Harmful Algal Blooms, and Space Weather.  Kind of interesting, but I'm a nerd like that).

Terms to Know-

Tornado: A violently rotating column of air, usually pendant to a cumulonimbus, with circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise. On a local scale, it is the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena.

Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Know what counties or parishes are in the watch area by listening to NOAA Weather Radio or your local radio/television outlets.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Severe Thunderstorm - A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots), and/or hail at least ¾" in diameter. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equal to or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least ½" is defined as approaching severe.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: 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.

Flash Flood - A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. Also, at times a dam failure can cause a flash flood, depending on the type of dam and time period during which the break occurs.

Flash Flood Watch - Issued to indicate current or developing hydrologic conditions that are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent.

Flash Flood Warning - Issued to inform the public, emergency management, and other cooperating agencies that flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely.