Severe Weather / Thunderstorm

severe weather

Did you know that there are 20 million thunderstorms in the U.S. per year?

Thunderstorms are a normal precursor to hazards such as lightning, hail, wind, floods and even tornadoes.  They are quite prevalent along the Front Range to the eastern plains during the spring and summer.  The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.  Lightning can occur anywhere there is a thunderstorm, and can even strike miles away from the storm.  Looking at where lightning occurs helps describe where the most prevalent thunderstorm activity is in Colorado. For instance, the greatest number of lightning flashes is not found across the high mountain elevations, but rather where the mountains and plains intersect. Lightning causes an average of 55-60 fatalities and 400 injuries each year.  These incidents are most common during summer afternoons and evenings.  In addition, wildfire ignition by lightning is of great concern in Colorado.  Every year, lightning causes numerous fires across the U.S. According to the National Fire Protection Association, lightning causes an average of about 24,600 fires each year.

Hail can also accompany thunderstorms.  Colorado’s damaging hail season is considered to be from mid-April to mid-August.  Colorado’s Front Range is located in the heart of “Hail Alley,” which receives the highest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world, so residents can count on three to four catastrophic (defined as at least $25 million in insured damage) hailstorms every year.  Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the terms below may help with what to expect so you can properly prepare.

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch ─ Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning ─ Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.
  • 30/30 Lightning Rule ─ You can tell how close you are to a lightning strike by counting the seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. For every five seconds you count, the lightning is one mile away. If you see a flash and instantly hear the thunder, the lightning strike is very close.

Despite the risk, everyone can take steps in preparing for severe weather.  Explore the information below to learn more about severe weather safety precautions.

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County.