Severe Weather Awareness Week: Damaging Winds & Hail

While tornadoes get a lot of attention, thunderstorms which produce damaging straight-line winds and hail are far more common.  With the help of the National Weather Service, we hope to increase the awareness and understanding of damaging winds and hail .  Below is some quality information courtesy of the National Weather Service Office in Pueblo.

TORNADOS CAN BE THE FRONT PAGE HEADLINE IN NEWSPAPERS OR THE TOP STORY ON RADIO OR TELEVISION NEWS IN COLORADO...BUT DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE WINDS OF TORNADO AND HURRICANE FORCE CAN ALSO INJURE AND KILL ANIMALS AND HUMANS.  DOWNBURST WINDS FROM A THUNDERSTORM USUALLY RESULT WHEN AN AREA WITHIN THE STORM IS QUICKLY COOLED BY RAIN...HAIL...OR EVAPORATION. THIS POCKET OF COOLED AIR...HEAVIER THAN THE SURROUNDING AIR...ACCELERATES DOWNWARD TO THE GROUND.  AS THE COOL AIR SLAMS INTO THE GROUND...IT SPREADS OUT FROM THE AREA OF IMPACT.  THIS PROCESS...IN EXTREME CASES...CAN CAUSE WINDS GREATER THAN 100 MPH.  WEATHER FORECASTERS CALL THESE BURSTS OF WIND MICROBURSTS IF THEY ARE LESS THAN 2 1/2 MILES ACROSS AND MACROBURSTS IF THEY ARE GREATER THAN 2 1/2 MILES ACROSS. 

THESE DOWNBURSTS OF AIR CAN BE VERY HAZARDOUS AND EVEN LIFE THREATENING TO PILOTS AND CAN CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE...INJURIES AND FATALITIES AT GROUND LEVEL AS WELL. TRY TO GET INDOORS DURING ALL THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY.  HIGH WINDS CAN SUDDENLY DEVELOP...WHICH CAN CAUSE THINGS ON THE GROUND TO BECOME SWIFT MOVING AIRBORNE MISSILES...WHICH CAN INJURE OR KILL.

HAIL...ANOTHER THUNDERSTORM THREAT...OFTEN OCCURS IN COLORADO. HAIL FORMS WITHIN THUNDERSTORMS AS LIQUID WATER FREEZES IN THE COLD MID AND UPPER LEVELS OF THE STORMS.  THE HAILSTONES ARE KEPT ALOFT BY STRONG UPDRAFT WINDS FOR A TIME...THEN WHEN THEY BECOME TOO LARGE TO BE KEPT ALOFT BY THE UPDRAFTS...THEY CASCADE TO THE GROUND.  HAILSTONES VARY FROM PEA SIZE...ABOUT 3/8 OF AN INCH IN DIAMETER...TO LARGER THAN GRAPEFRUITS...NEARLY 5 INCHES IN DIAMETER. 

HAILSTONES CAN DO TREMENDOUS DAMAGE TO FARM CROPS...EITHER AS LARGE HAILSTONES OR AS A PRODIGIOUS FALL OF SMALL HAILSTONES THAT ACCUMULATE TO A DEPTH OF SEVERAL INCHES.  LARGE HAIL CAN EASILY DAMAGE VEHICLES AND BUILDINGS...AND CAN BE LIFE THREATENING TO ANIMALS AND PEOPLE.  AGAIN...TRY TO GET INDOORS DURING ALL THUNDERSTORMS.  A FALL OF SMALL HAIL CAN SUDDENLY CHANGE TO A FALL OF VERY LARGE ICE MISSILES...THAT CAN INJURE OR KILL.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS FOR WINDS OF 58 MPH OR HIGHER AND FOR LARGE HAIL ONE INCH IN DIAMETER OR LARGER.  REALIZE THAT SOME STORMS ARE CAPABLE OF MUCH LARGER HAIL AND MUCH HIGHER WIND...SO WHEN YOU HEAR ABOUT A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING...SEEK SHELTER.

WHEN THUNDERSTORMS...WITH ALL THEIR HAZARDS...THREATEN YOU THIS SEVERE WEATHER SEASON...TUNE TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO ALL HAZARDS. IN EACH PLACE YOU FIND YOURSELF DURING THREATENING WEATHER DAYS...PLAN OUT THE ACTIONS YOU WOULD TAKE IF WEATHER WERE TO BECOME LIFE THREATENING.  NOAAS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WISHES YOU A SAFE SEVERE WEATHER SEASON. 

Meteorologist Branden Borremans

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