Along with the beautiful spring weather that has arrived in the Parkland comes the downside — the chance for an outbreak of severe weather.
St. Francois, along with its surrounding counties, is under a Hazardous Weather Outlook issued Wednesday by the National Weather Service (NWS). With showers and thunderstorms moving into the area last night, the regional forecast is for an increased chance of thunderstorms today, tonight and continuing into Friday.
As of press time Wednesday, the NWS was reporting a lot of uncertainty regarding today’s forecast. This morning will see Wednesday’s storm complex weakening and exiting the forecast area. Then, depending on the amount of cloud cover and how much the atmosphere recovers, will determine if or when storms fire back up during the afternoon hours ahead of the main cold front.
There will be plenty of low level moisture and instability, bringing with it a chance of severe weather. At this point, the main threats appear to be large hail, damaging winds and the chance for a tornado. Weakening instability by tonight should allow for a decrease in severe storms, although southeast Missouri will likely continue to see showers and storms as a cold front finally moves through late Thursday night and exiting by mid-morning Friday.
With this being the time of year when the chance of severe weather is at its highest, here are some NWS tips on how to be best prepared if or when it arrives.
According to NWS, severe thunderstorms are officially defined as storms capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees or cause structural damage to trees. Some severe thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph. It’s important to pay attention to the weather to know when severe storms are possible. Thunderstorms also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning. Additionally, heavy rain can cause flash flooding.
In weather conditions conducive to severe weather, NWS can announce a Severe Thunderstorm Watch or Severe Thunderstorm Warning.
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means to be prepared. Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means it’s time to take action. Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area — around the size of a city or small county — that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter or law enforcement watching the storm.
In case of severe weather, acting quickly is the key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.
If at home, go to a secure location when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. Damaging wind or large hail may be approaching. Take pets along if time allows.
If at a workplace or school, stay away from windows when under a severe thunderstorm warning with damaging wind or large hail approaching. Do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums.
If outside, go inside a sturdy building immediately when severe thunderstorms are approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Taking shelter under a tree can be deadly because the tree may fall on the person. Standing under a tree also puts people at a greater risk of getting struck by lightning.
If in a vehicle, know that it’s safer than being outside, however, drive to the closest secure shelter should there be time.
Finally, stay weather ready. Check the Daily Journal website at www.dailyjournalonline.com, as well as NOAA weather radio to keep updated about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com