Severe Weather Awareness Week - Severe Thunderstorms

Prepare for Wisconsin’s severe weather season with the NBC15 First Alert Weather Team.
Prepare for Wisconsin’s severe weather season with the NBC15 First Alert Weather Team.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 7:25 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Thunderstorms are a common occurrence in Wisconsin during the warmer months. And while you may associate tornadic thunderstorms with bringing all the damage and concern, that’s not always the case. Thunderstorms producing straight line winds can be just as destructive, if not more, than a weak tornado. Add in wind-driven hail and you can be in for a significant threat to life and property.

One way a storm can produce gusty winds is through a microburst. As a thunderstorm grows, it can start to suck in dry air. This starts a process called evaporative cooling. That cool air starts to fall and accelerate. Once it reached the ground, it is forced out in a destructive manner. Winds can reach up to 150 mph in the strongest storms.

Another damaging part of a severe thunderstorm is hail. Frozen water droplets are swept up by updrafts. Eventually they climb to a level below freezing and freeze into a chunk of ice. This process continues until the hail stone becomes too heavy and falls to the ground. Hail can come in all shapes and sizes from pea size to grapefruit size or larger!

Here’s a look at what kind of damage you can expect in a severe thunderstorm. You’ll start to see some minor damage when winds get to 58 mph and hail reaches the size of quarters. At 70 mph and golf ball size hail, considerable damage can be expected. Once winds reach 80 mph or baseball size hail occurs, you can expect destructive damage.

Anytime a thunderstorm is moving through your area, it’s always a good idea to take cover inside. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, you will want to take extra precautions such as getting into an interior room and staying away from windows. You can help minimize damage on your property by keeping trees trimmed and healthy.

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