National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Thunderstorms are a common occurrence in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida at any time of the day, month, or year. There are about 2,000 thunderstorms in progress around the world at any given moment. However, less than 1% of these thunderstorms are classified as "severe". Severe thunderstorms are defined as thunderstorms that produce 1-inch hail or larger and/or strong wind gusts of 58mph or greater. Severe hail that is 1 inch in diameter is roughly the size of a quarter.


All thunderstorms generate potentially deadly lightning. However, lightning in a thunderstorm does NOT mean that the thunderstorm is severe. A small percentage of severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes with little or no lightning at all.


Across the region, severe thunderstorms typically occur during the late afternoon and evening hours but can develop at any time. While severe thunderstorms can occur any month of the year, the peak Severe Weather Season is during the spring months of March, April, and May. Alabama, Mississippi, and northwest Florida also have a secondary Severe Weather Season in the fall that typically runs from November through December.






Severe Thunderstorm WATCH
means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. People located in and around the WATCH area should keep an eye on the sky and listen to their NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio or tune in to the local broadcast media for further weather information. Typically, a WATCH lasts around 6 hours and covers a relatively large area. Simply put, it means BE ALERT!



Severe Thunderstorm WARNING
means either a severe thunderstorm is occurring, is detected by National Weather Service Doppler Radar, or a reliable report has been received. People in the WARNING area should take immediate action to protect their lives, the lives of others, and their property. Tornadoes can and occasionally do accompany severe thunderstorms. Treat this WARNING the same as you would for a Tornado Warning by taking the proper safety precautions. A WARNING is issued for smaller, more specific locations and generally last for less than one hour. Simply put, it means TAKE ACTION!






Severe Thunderstorm Safety Rules:


Thunderstorms typically do not last very long and will most often pass by your location in less than one hour.


The best defense against thunderstorms is to stay inside a sturdy, substantial building that can protect you from lightning, hail, damaging wind, heavy rain, and tornadoes.


If caught outside, try to find shelter immediately.


Once in a shelter, stay away from windows and avoid electrical equipment.


Be sure to secure loose objects outside as these objects often become dangerous flying debris in high winds.







Additional Information

     NWS Storm Prediction Center

     National Severe Storms Lab

     Severe Weather Safety

     StormReady Program

     YouTube - Severe Thunderstorm Safety (ASL/CC)
     YouTube - NWS Memphis: Severe Weather Preparedness
     YouTube - Preparedness Videos
     YouTube - Severe Weather Videos

     mPing App

     Brochure - Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning...Nature's Most Violent Storms