Severe thunderstorm warnings are about to change, here’s what you need to know

A thunderstorm developing.
A thunderstorm developing.(NOAA)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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In early August, the National Weather Service will be creating sub-categories for severe thunderstorm warnings.

This is to distinguishing a severe thunderstorm from an extreme event. A tornado like severe thunderstorm without the tornado.

The new warnings will have either no-tag (this is how the current warning is), a considerable tag, or a destructive tag. So what does this all mean?

The National Weather Service will be issuing warnings slightly different
The National Weather Service will be issuing warnings slightly different(WHSV)


For severe thunderstorm warnings with no tag, the severe thunderstorm criteria that has been used in the past will be issued. Any storm that has the potential of damaging winds above 58 mph and/or producing hail with at least an inch in diameter (the size of a quarter) would trigger a severe thunderstorm warning. This is most of our severe thunderstorm warnings so in our region, most will not change. While this might seem like a typical severe thunderstorm, severe thunderstorms are still capable of producing damage. It’s important to take all warnings serious.


Severe thunderstorms that have a considerable tag, upgrades the criteria. A severe thunderstorm warning issued with a “considerable” tag has to have the potential for at least 70 mph winds and/or hail 1.75 inches in diameter (golf ball size). This would be a much stronger severe storm, or possibly a line of storms with damaging winds or large hail. On average the area may see this every 1-2 years. If you see the “considerable” tag, a supercell is likely going to impact your area. One example of a severe thunderstorm warning obtaining this tag would be the powerful and locally rare storm that passed through Scottsville in Albemarle County Wednesday night.


The highest criteria for severe thunderstorm warning will be tagged as “destructive” meaning that storms could have the potential of at least 80 mph winds, and/or hail of 2.75 inches of diameter (baseball sized). Keep in mind baseball sized hail in our area has only been reported once in history. These kind of tags would maybe be seen once every 5-7 years in our area. This will be used for the rare, destructive events. The 2012 derecho would be a good example of when this destructive tag would be used. Think tornado like- but without the tornado.

This type of severe thunderstorm will set off the wireless emergency alert on your phone so you know, something is different.

While these new types of warnings will be very beneficial, keep in mind that either the considerable or destructive alerts will be a rare occurrence in our area. You should take all severe storms seriously. Trees can be toppled in 60mph or 80mph winds. Just know when you see either of the two upgraded warnings, that’s a different kind of storm.

Diameter of hail when comparing to something else
Diameter of hail when comparing to something else(WHSV)


A standard push alert will not notify you of this new tag. To figure out if a storm has a tag, it would be in the information likely if you were using a weather app and clicking for more details. Other times where you could find this would be when a warning is scrolling at the bottom of your television screen or if you happen to be listening to public radio at the time the warning is issued. If the WHSV First Alert Storm team were on-air at the time of the storm, you would also see the new tag.

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