New severe thunderstorm warning category to trigger Emergency Alert

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – Many of us have gotten Wireless Emergency Alerts right to our phones. Whether it be an Amber Alert, Flash Flooding warning, or even a Tornado warning.

Now there will be another added trigger to the Wireless Emergency Alert system through the National Weather Service. 

At the beginning of August, the National Weather Service established new threat tags for severe thunderstorms.  

Kurt Kotenberg is a Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Green Bay. He says, “Going back in time, the primary way people received warnings was through the sirens. And now with technology growing and advancing…we are trying to meet technology here.” 

Severe thunderstorms used to be issued under one category over 58 mph winds and/or quarter-size hail. That is now the base category. 

Two more categories have been created. Considerable contains 70 mph winds and/or golf ball size hail. 

The most dangerous tag…Destructive…has hail at least baseball size or 80 mph winds. To give perspective an EF0 tornado contains wind between 65 to 85 mph. This new tag triggers a Wireless Emergency Alert to all of our devices.  

What drove the decision for the new system?

Kotenberg says, “Certainly, that Iowa derecho from last August was definitely a catalyst to get this going. Because if they had that system in place, people on the roads could have that alert in their cellphone that says…gosh…this is a destructive…winds over 80 mph. I’m about to drive into that.” 

Wireless Emergency Alert mock up for a severe thunderstorm warning with a destructive tag

The National Weather Service has yet to issue a severe thunderstorm warning with that destructive tag in Northeast Wisconsin, which begs the question: How common are these destructive types of thunderstorms? 

“Up here in Northeast Wisconsin it is very rare to have that 80 mph tag. Definitely, we see that more in Iowa, the Davenport/Quad cities area, northern Illinois…,” states Kotenberg.

In most cases, these types of thunderstorms with very strong winds would develop along a line of storms. By issuing these tags, this allows more warning on these pockets of 80 mph or greater winds.

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