Severe weather season is here: these are the terms you’ll start hearing in weather forecasts


(WEHT) When it comes to talking about severe weather, you’ll hear Your Weather Authority talk about marginal, slight, enhanced, moderate and high risks when it comes to severe weather.

It can get confusing so let’s break it down.

Level 1: Marginal
This is the lowest level, which means there is a very isolated chance for a severe storm and, should one develop, it wouldn’t last very long.

Level 2: Slight
This means storms are still short lived, but there will be probably be more of them than under marginal.

Level 3: Enhanced
More storms, and they will be more intense. Tornadoes are expected.

Level 4 & 5: Moderate & High
We don’t see these too often in the Tri-State, but if you do hear there’s a moderate or high risk, make sure you have a severe weather plan ready to go.

It is good to keep in mind any severe storm is capable of producing a tornado, so even with a marginal risk, it’s always good to have a weather radio and be weather aware.

Some other terms you’re likely to hear this spring: special weather statement, watches, warnings and emergencies. So here’s a breakdown of what each one means.

This is issued when a hazardous weather event is occurring, imminent or likely, but is not serious enough to be considered severe.                   

You’ll hear the term “severe storm watch” or “tornado watch” when the risk of a hazardous weather event has increased significantly. It’s meant to give you enough time to prepare your severe weather plan, like getting to the basement or the inner-most room of your home.

When you hear “tornado warning,” it means radar is detecting rotation in a storm that could produce or tornado or there is truly a tornado and it’s on the ground. You need to get to shelter, and don’t forget to bring a weather radio with you, put on your shoes, and if you have a helmet, it’s a good idea to put it on.

All these terms apply to severe storms and tornadoes, but there is an extra level for a tornado: tornado emergency.

The term ‘tornado emergency’ came out about 22 years ago when a tornado was hitting Oklahoma City, causing extreme damage. Forecasters needed a stronger word at that moment, and went with emergency.

A ‘tornado emergency’ is rarely used, but when it is, it means there is an ongoing threat to life, catastrophic damage is occurring, and the tornado has been seen by someone or there is no doubt from a radar a tornado has touched down.

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