As we look forward to the month of March, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for severe weather. March 18th-24th is Severe Weather Awareness Week and now would be a good time to draft an emergency plan with your family.
Our Accuweather.com Meteroologist, Heather Zehr, was asked what we can start to see as we head into the spring season.
“Usually we start to get things like damaging winds and we can start to get tornadoes kicking in,” said Zehr. “The hail when you start to get colder air in the upper levels of the atmosphere compared to the warmer and more humid air. That can be a little slower coming in, but we’ll see that kicking up soon enough too.”
She explains the volatility that causes severe weather in the spring.
“We start to see the severe weather kicking off when we really start to see the warm, humid air that’s been sitting over the tropics all winter long starting to work its way northward. As the sun gets higher in the sky and the overall warming of the atmosphere kind of creeps further north, we start to get more of that warm and humid air it and starts to get drawn more northward. The jet stream starts to shift, but we’re also fighting cold air coming down from the Northwest. That combination, when those two collide, usually across a fairly strong front, is where we get the worst of our severe storms to kick up. That’s why we often are seeing strong cold fronts that will come sweeping across the country or out of the Northwest and down across the Midwest. That’s where most of our severe weather tends to come from in the spring.”
When forecasters predict severe weather, they use specific terminology. Heather tells us what a “watch” means.
“A watch simply means that conditions are possible for whatever the watch category is. If we have a severe thunderstorm watch, that means that there is a possibility for severe thunderstorms to occur. A tornado watch means that if a severe thunderstorm occurs, conditions are right that we could get some tornadoes.”
Then there’s the term that should get your attention: “warning”.
“That means something is actually happening – something specific that you’re being warned about. In the case of a severe thunderstorm warning, it means there is a severe thunderstorm out there and it’s going to be in the areas that you’ll hear mentioned the warning. If you hear a tornado warning, a tornado has either been indicated by Doppler Radar or has actually been spotted by a member of the public and that’s what we’re warning about. There is a tornado or an imminent possibility of a tornado.”
Severe weather isn’t waiting around.
“We’ve already been seeing quite a bit of severe weather across southern parts of the country, and in some cases, up along the Ohio River. It’s getting closer already and I suspect we will start to get into a little earlier severe weather season because we aren’t seeing this weather pattern changing much. We’ll probably continue to see that warming, but still fight that cold air from Canada.”
It’ll feel a lot like spring today – without the severe weather. Expect highs today in the upper 50s.