Severe Weather Tips

As daylight becomes longer and temperatures get warmer, we move into our yearly cycle of weather changes. Snowstorms become rain and thunderstorms, and there is plenty to take note of as we head into another year of severe weather.

As produced by National Weather Service offices around Michigan, April 7-13 is Severe Weather Awareness week!

Earlier in March, I was remembering the unique events that launched Spring 2012 into a craze. We had record temps into the 80s, and multiple tornadoes tear across eastern Michigan. It was a very interesting start to the year, and it kept you on your toes for forecasting and figuring out just what the heck is going on up there! While Spring 2013 is moving in like a lamb, that lion could be waiting right around the corner, and being prepared is a priority.

Greg’s Tips for Severe Weather

NOAA Weather Radio
This is the single most valuable thing you can have for warning during a stormy day! We absorb weather through many sources these days; internet, TV, radio, word of mouth. When the winds start brewing and the power goes out, many of these reliable sources are cut down. Even if you have a backup generator, chances are your media services(internet/cable TV) will not be powered in your area. Having a battery-powered weather radio can keep you up to the minute warnings and weather information. The warning signal usually beats web updates by a few minutes as well. Weather Radios are also a hero at night if the house is asleep and dangerous weather is near. Keep them charged with batteries nearby!

Know Your Surroundings
This goes along great with the weather radio. While forecasters may get as specific as calling out road names and cities where the storms are near, you should also know the County names surrounding your location. Storms typically move West to East, sometimes SW to NE, sometimes NW to SE. Bottom line, know where you are relative to where the storm is. If you think a dangerous storm is going to miss you, do not take it for granted. Supercell thunderstorms are known to waver on path, and sometimes can change direction. Be prepared for anything!

Skywarn Classes (
These are great chances to learn about weather a little more in detail, and refined to severe weather scenarios. They are free, and usually run by a few forecasters from your local NWS office. That means they are run by the folks that track and watch for storms on a daily basis and know what to look for. You will go over everything from how to report weather threats to authorities, to determining if that ominous dark cloud is a wall cloud or shelf cloud(important!). Usually there is a great Spotter’s Field Guide that is handed out for quick reference, there is an online PDF version available here. Once you have learned this material, you become a very valuable resource to forecasting as you are an eye witness to the weather in your area. As useful as that is, always make sure your safety is first! NEVER put yourself in danger to get a report.

Know Your Clouds
As mentioned previously, knowing the difference between clouds can mean loads for the weather to expect. Low flying scud could prompt you to call it a wall cloud(precursor to tornadoes), but is that cloud rotating as well? Is is attached to the base of cloud above it? How about those shelf clouds that take up the entire horizon? Much of this is detailed in the Skywarn classes, but this is something that can help you out in a fix, and impress others.

Wall Cloud SE of Mount Pleasant, MI

Example of a wall cloud just SE of CMU campus back in May 2011.

Heed Warnings
“Yea, that storm is way far from my house, I don’t need to pay attention.” Always take note of Watches/Warnings. Along those lines, know the difference between a Watch and a Warning.

Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches mean conditions in the atmosphere are favorable for that type of weather to develop, so be ready for storms later in the day, or within the next couple hours.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Warnings mean a severe storm has been spotted/identified, and is tracking along the specified path.  Take appropriate action immediately if you are in the track of the storm.

Watches = be ready for storms soon/later in the day
Warnings = take action immediately if you are identified in the path of a storm

A disclaimer I must make about the blog; Greg’s Weather Blog is not a good source for immediate severe weather forecasting! Please do not rely on this page for up to the minute information on storms! Head to for that, and type in your Zip Code to find yourself quickly and any Watches/Warnings that are in effect.

Take care out there!


About gweatherc
Live in Michigan and enjoy observing the weather. Want to pursue it as a career! Currently taking classes at Central Michigan University.

One Response to Severe Weather Tips

  1. Peyrefitte Jr, Ashton G says:

    Hi Greg,

    Good blog—I think I’m stormready! My brother was at Grand Isle, a resort south of New Orleans, on Easter. He reported a big thunderstorm replete with a wall cloud, moving adjacent to the coast north of him. Do you think I should send him this blog?


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