Understanding the severe weather risk levels - WNEM TV 5

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Understanding the severe weather risk levels

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Source: NWS Kansas City Source: NWS Kansas City

Severe Weather Awareness Week has come and unfortunately this year, the lingering winter weather decided to steal most of the weather headlines. In case you missed it, this last April was the coldest on record in Flint, and second coldest in Saginaw. 

But now that we're into the month of May, things are looking up temperature wise. However, that also means severe weather season is upon us.

Parts of Mid-Michigan are under a Marginal Risk of severe weather over the next couple of days, which means it's a good time to refresh on what "Marginal Risk" and the other severe weather threat levels mean. 

These threat levels are issued daily by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma and each level highlights the potential risk of severe weather that day. Here are the current levels and their definitions, along with examples of what you might expect on a day that one of these levels is issued. 

  • Marginal
    • Isolated severe storms possible
    • Storms are expected to be limited in duration and/or coverage and/or intensity. 
    • Examples: Winds 40-60 MPH, hail up to 1", low tornado risk
  • Slight
    • Scattered severe storms possible
    • Storms are expected to be short-lived and/or not widespread... but isolated intense storms are possible
    • Examples: Reports of strong winds/wind damage, hail around 1" to isolated 2", one or two tornadoes
  • Enhanced
    • Numerous severe storms possible
    • Storms are expected to be more persistent and/or widespread, a few intense storms possible
    • Examples: Several reports of wind damage, damaging hail 1"-2", a few tornadoes
  • Moderate
    • Widespread severe storms likely
    • Storms are expected to be long-lived, widespread, intense
    • Examples: Widespread wind damage, destructive hail 2"+, strong tornadoes
  • High
    • Widespread severe storms expected
    • Storms are expected to be long-lived, very widespread, and particularly intense
    • Examples: Tornado outbreak, derecho (high wind event)

The easiest way to understand these risk categories is to look at it on a scale of 1-5, with Marginal the lowest risk (1) and High being the greatest risk (5). 

It's important to remember that while these are good definitions to give an approximate outlook on the day, all of these risk levels should be taken seriously as even Marginal Risk days can be hazardous. Severe weather is severe weather. 

Have a severe weather plan in place for the severe weather season and be sure to practice that plan. Make sure you have multiple ways to receive warnings and don't rely on an outdoor warning siren. They are not meant to be heard indoors. 

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