New wireless emergency alerts for ‘destructive’ severe thunderstorms

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The National Weather Service is taking another step to help us stay informed about severe weather by sending out alerts to our smartphones for specific types of severe thunderstorms.

A severe thunderstorm is classified as having wind speeds of 58 mph or greater and/or having 1-inch diameter hail, the size of a quarter, or larger. And the National Weather Service will issue a warning when a storm exceeds these criteria.

The “destructive” category of severe thunderstorms is defined as having 80 mph or greater winds and/or having 2.75-inch diameter hail, the size of baseballs, or larger.

Starting August 2, wireless emergency alerts will be sent out for severe thunderstorms that are deemed to be in this “destructive” category. Alerts will be sent to your phone the same way you would get a tornado warning or even an Amber Alert, as long as you have wireless emergency alerts enabled on your smartphone.

Only about 3% of all severe thunderstorm warnings in North Dakota fall under this “destructive” category, or about eight per year, that will now trigger a wireless emergency alert.

As of August 2, the last severe thunderstorm warned for baseball-sized hail was on July 20 in parts of north-central North Dakota. The last severe thunderstorm warned for 80 mph winds was on June 11 in parts of northwest North Dakota.

So while baseball-sized hail and 80 mph wind gusts from severe thunderstorms are fairly uncommon in the Northern Plains, they do happen from time to time, and these new wireless emergency alerts from the National Weather Service will help to make sure people are aware when dangerous severe weather is in the area.

Another way to be notified of severe weather is by signing up for our Weather Call service, where we will call your home phone or mobile device when you are in a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning. Also, be sure to download the First Warn Weather App to stay updated on any severe weather threat and to track storms when they develop.

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