(WJHL) – Thunderstorms can be quite powerful, often delivering torrential rainfall, hail and strong winds to an area. A severe thunderstorm carries many of the same characteristics but at a level that is much more impactful and sometimes dangerous and life-threatening.


The National Weather Service classifies a severe thunderstorm as a storm that produces:

  • 58 mph winds or greater
  • and/or one-inch diameter hail or larger
  • and/or a tornado

Watch vs. Warning

A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms across the watch area. Go about your daily activities, but keep an eye on the sky for changing weather conditions.  

A severe thunderstorm warning means severe weather had been detected by radar or reported by the public in the area. If a warning is issued, seek shelter immediately.

Multiple Sources for Watches/Warnings

It is recommended that you have at least three ways to receive watches or warnings.

A great investment would be an NOAA Weather Radio, which can alert you even when the power or cell service is interrupted. Feel free to contact our weather office if you need assistance in setting it up.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will alert you to flash flooding, extremely strong winds (70+ mph) and tornadoes. They are government-issued alerts that will be sent to your cell phone immediately.

If the weather becomes particularly nasty or life-threatening, then Storm Team 11 will break in over programming on TV to bring you the latest threats, show you where those threats are, and where they are going.

Staying Safe When Severe Weather Strikes

Lightning Safety


The best place to seek shelter from severe weather is an enclosed building away from outside windows. If large hail is produced or extremely strong winds are present, they can easily break through creating the hazard of broken glass.

It is also generally a good idea to not be near or use any water sources while lightning is present. The electric current from lightning can travel through metal plumbing and water which are both good conductors. Being zapped while using water is rare, but it is a good idea to avoid it if you can.

Learn more about lightning safety here.


If you are caught outdoors, move to an enclosed building immediately. Open outdoor shelters are not considered safe and should be avoided if possible.

NEVER shelter under a tree. Lightning is prone to strike tall objects and trees are usually a likely target. There is also the possibility of the tree falling on you if caught in the extremely strong winds from a severe storm.

If near the water or on it, GET TO LAND as soon as possible. Remember, water is an excellent conductor of electricity.

A hard-topped car is a good option when an enclosed building is not available. Make sure to roll up all windows and stay away from anything metal.

The National Weather Service recommends waiting at least thirty minutes after the last rumble of thunder to resume outdoor activities.

Storm Team 11 Weather App

Our app will alert you to incoming weather, provide our forecast and can follow your location even when you leave the Tri-Cities. It provides lots of useful information that can help you plan your day or week.

Keep these tips in mind and you can stay safe should severe weather roll into your area.