Hail size change means fewer TV interruptions

Next year, there will be fewer severe thunderstorm warnings because of how they're classified, weather and emergency services officials say.

The National Weather Service will increase the key hail size requirement for a thunderstorm to be considered severe from three-fourths of an inch in diameter to an inch Jan. 1.

"The bottom line is ... there will be fewer severe thunderstorm warnings and related disruptions," said Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker in an e-mail.

"And when severe thunderstorm warnings are issued, the storms will have the potential to cause damage and should be taken seriously."

According to studies conducted in the Midwest, a similar change in storm warning criteria reduced the number of severe thunderstorm warnings 5 percent, Mrs. Tucker said.

And according to field research, Mrs. Tucker said, it takes at least inch-size hail to cause structural damage.

A severe thunderstorm has one or more of: a tornado, hail at least three-fourths of an inch in diameter, wind gusts of at least 56 mph and heavy rain that leads to flash flooding.

The increase in the hail requirement could have another added benefit: fewer interruptions to TV shows.

"According to the National Weather Service, broadcast media outlets welcome the (warning) reduction," Mrs. Tucker said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.