Wake County Hazard Mitigation Plan - January 2020


4.5.8 Severe Weather (Thunderstorm Winds, Lightning & Hail)

Hazard Background Thunderstorm Winds

Thunderstorms result from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at fronts. As the warm, moist air moves upward, it cools, condenses, and forms cumulonimbus clouds that can reach heights of greater than 35,000 ft. As the rising air reaches its dew point, water droplets and ice form and begin falling the long distance through the clouds towards earth‘s surface. As the droplets fall, they collide with other droplets and become larger. The falling droplets create a downdraft of air that spreads out at e arth‘s surface and causes strong winds associated with thunderstorms. There are four ways in which thunderstorms can organize: single cell, multi-cell cluster, multi-cell lines (squall lines), and supercells. Even though supercell thunderstorms are most frequently associated with severe weather phenomena, thunderstorms most frequently organize into clusters or lines. Warm, humid conditions are favorable for the development of thunderstorms. The average single cell thunderstorm is approximately 15 miles in diameter and lasts less than 30 minutes at a single location. However, thunderstorms, especially when organized into clusters or lines, can travel intact for distances exceeding 600 miles. Thunderstorms are responsible for the development and formation of many severe weather phenomena, posing great hazards to the population and landscape. Damage that results from thunderstorms is mainly inflicted by downburst winds, large hailstones, and flash flooding caused by heavy precipitation. Stronger thunderstorms are capable of producing tornadoes and waterspouts. While conditions for thunderstorm conditions may be anticipated within a few hours, severe conditions are difficult to predict. Regardless of severity, storms generally pass within a few hours. Warning Time: 4 – Less than six hours Duration: 1 – Less than six hours Lightning Lightning is a sudden electrical discharge released from the atmosphere that follows a course from cloud to ground, cloud to cloud, or cloud to surrounding air, with light illuminating its path. Lightning’s unpredictable nature causes it to be one of the most feared weather elements. All thunderstorms produce lightning, which often strikes outside of the area where it is raining and is known to fall more than 10 miles away from the rainfall area. When lightning strikes, electricity shoots through the air and causes vibrations creating the sound of thunder. A bolt of lightning can reach temperatures approaching 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Nationwide, lightning kills 75 to 100 people each year. Lightning strikes can also start building fires and wildland fires, and damage electrical systems and equipment. The watch/warning time for a given storm is usually a few hours. There is no warning time for any given lightning strike. Lightning strikes are instantaneous. Storms that cause lightning usually pass within a few hours. Warning Time: 4 – minimal or no warning time (less than 6 hours warning) Duration: 1 – less than six hours

Wake County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan 2019


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