Severe Weather: Changing warnings and Special Weather Statements

Local News

Dozens of volunteers help clean up a demolished home on Princeton Circle near Ranchview Drive in Naperville after a tornado ripped through the western suburbs overnight, Monday afternoon, June 21, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)


(WETM) – Last week was a busy weather week with warnings, including two tornado warnings here in the Twin Tiers. It proved to be a great week to stay weather aware and know when warnings are being posted. Now, Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are getting an upgrade and so are Special Weather Statements. These upgrades will go into effect around July 28.

For Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, there are new damage threat categories that are a part of the impact-based coding. These categories are base, considerable and destructive. Depending on the intensity of the thunderstorm and the impacts it carries, it will receive one of those threat category tags. Any destructive tagged thunderstorms will prompt a wireless emergency alert through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS). Hail and wind are the factors that contribute to the damage threat tag.


As for Special Weather Statements, the format of the statements will be changed to look like Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. This will consist of formating based on the Impact Based Warnings which will now have Special Weather Statements show the threats, including the threat type(s), source of the information, and general impacts from the threat(s) into bulleted sections titled HAZARD, SOURCE, and IMPACT. All of this is to help make the information clearly defined.

Tornado warnings are not getting any updates because they were updated a few years ago. Here is just a quick overview of the categories: there is a considerable tornado warning and a catastrophic tornado warning. The considerable tag would be used rarely for those tornado warnings where the storm information suggests the possibility of a strong tornado (EF2 or greater).

The catastrophic damage tag, also known as a tornado emergency, would be used in exceedingly rare situations. Certain criteria have to be met for a catastrophic tornado warning (tornado emergency) to be issued. This criterion is as followed: a severe threat to human life is imminent or ongoing, catastrophic damage is imminent or ongoing and the tornado is expected to impact a population footprint, or reliable sources confirm the tornado, either by visual or via radar imagery, which strongly suggests the existence of the damaging tornado.

Make sure to stay weather aware as we continue to travel through severe weather season!

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