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Severe Weather Alerts

By Hanna Nilson


When severe weather is on its way, will you be ready for it?


Severe weather alerts are meant to be a warning for people located in an area which could soon be hit by major storms. Yet, in the National Weather Service’s Guide to Weather Preparedness, it reports that Tornadoes cause an average of 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries each year! Some other shocking statistics include:

*        Lightning – Annual average of 80 fatalities and 300 injuries.

*        Strong Winds – Extremely dangerous for aviation and can be as damaging as a tornado!

*        Flash Floods – Is the #1 cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms…more than 140 fatalities each year!

*        Hail – Causes more than $1billion in crop and property damages each year.

The National Weather Service (NWA) also suggests that one of the most important things you can do to prevent being injured by severe weather, is to pay close attention to sever weather alerts and warnings. “Once you receive a warning or observe threatening skies, YOU must make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives…It could be the most important decision you will ever make.” Here are some useful tips and tricks which will help you to respond to your local severe weather alerts:

  1. Plan Ahead: Have a plan to handle severe weather in advance. Find out more about your community shelters and weather precautionary measurements. Also, visit the Red Cross online for more information about handling severe weather disasters.

  2. Know How Weather Alerts Work: For example, there are 7 different levels in the tornado rating system; from F0 to F6 – the Fujita Scale (as seen below).

F-Scale Number

Intensity Phrase

Wind Speed

Type of Damage Done


Gale tornado

40-72 mph

Some damage to chimneys; breaks branches off trees; pushes over shallow-rooted trees; damages sign boards.


Moderate tornado

73-112 mph

The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peels surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the roads; attached garages may be destroyed.


Significant tornado

113-157 mph

Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light object missiles generated.


Severe tornado

158-206 mph

Roof and some walls torn off well constructed houses; trains overturned and uprooted trees.


Devastating tornado

207-260 mph

Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.


Incredible tornado

261-318 mph

Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters; trees debarked; steel re-enforced concrete structures badly damaged.


Inconceivable tornado

319-379 mph

These winds are very unlikely. The small area of damage they might produce would probably not be recognizable along with the mess produced by F4 and F5 wind that would surround the F6 winds.

  1. Be Alert: If there is a Tornado Warning or Tornado Emergency in your area, that means seek refuge! This sever weather alert is only used when there is an indication of very strong storm systems in the local area. Such severe weather alerts have been issued in cases such as the 1999 F5 Moore tornado in Oklahoma and the 2007 EF5 Kansas Tornado.

There are many other types of Severe Weather Alerts and Terminology such as the Flash Flood Warning, Winter Storm or Blizzard Warning or Hurricane Warning. You should also know that there is a significant difference between a severe weather Outlook, Advisory, Watch and Warning. These four types of weather alerts reflect the different levels of hazardous weather.

By knowing and understanding the significance of your local weather reports and severe weather advisories; fatality, injury and property damage rates can be drastically reduced. Being prepared to handle Mother Nature at her worst can be one of the smartest things you can do, especially if you live in an area where severe weather is more likely.


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