You’ll soon start getting alerts on your phone about ‘destructive’ storms


Tobias Hartl/dpa via AP

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The National Weather Service (NWS) announced Thursday that starting on July 28, a new alert will be sent out for severe thunderstorms deemed potentially “destructive.”

Below is an example of what this type of alert would look like:

The alert is known as a “Wireless Emergency Alert,” or WEA for short, which will appear on smartphones based on location.

It won’t occur for every thunderstorm warning, just ones that meet specific criteria. The NWS says only about 10 percent of severe thunderstorms nationwide reach the destructive category.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service and are separate from these alerts. The goal is to make the public more aware of impending severe weather and warn them to seek shelter immediately.

Here is the criteria being used by the NWS to determine if a storm would be “destructive” and a WEA is warranted:

  • The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area.
  • The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.
  • The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm Warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, damage is expected to be at the base level.

If you’re unsure about the difference between a “watch” and a “warning” when it comes to storms, here’s a fun way to break it down: A Taco Watch would mean the ingredients are there for a taco, but it’s not a taco just yet. A Taco Warning would mean the ingredients came together and created the taco.

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