Severe Thunderstorm

Understand a Severe Thunderstorm

Wichita Falls is prone to severe weather during the months of March through June, but severe weather can occur at any time of the year. A Severe Thunderstorm is classified by the National Weather Service (NWS) as a thunderstorm capable of producing winds of 58 mph (93 kph) or higher and/or hail 1 inch in diameter or larger. Note that all thunderstorms are capable of producing a tornado if conditions are right. When it comes to severe weather, there are four types of alerts that can be issued by the NWS: Severe Thunderstorm WATCH, Severe Thunderstorm WARNING, Tornado WATCH, and Tornado WARNING.

Watch vs. Warning:

Watch Vs. Warning

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! (House 2)

Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
Watch Vs. Warning

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! (House 1)

Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated on weather radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter. 

Actions for Severe Thunderstorms:

Before a Severe Thunderstorm:

Find out what you can do before severe weather strikes. Preparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.

  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for severe weather. Listen to local news or check the Norman National Weather Service webpage to stay informed about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
  • Sign up for WichitaFalls CodeREDThe number one way to receive an emergency alert from Wichita Falls OEM and NWS is through a CodeRED message. Visit Emergency Alerts for more information on how to sign up and keep your information up to date. 
  • Know What to Do: When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued know what to do and where to go in your building.
  • Build or Re-Stock Your Kit: Have critical items to help you survive before help arrives. During large-scale disasters, help could be delayed.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. Pick a safe room in your home such as a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Get more ideas for a plan at: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
  • Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when severe thunderstorm warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.

During a Severe Thunderstorm:

TAKE ACTION NOW to protect yourself and others. If the Severe Thunderstorm produces a Tornado, the National Weather Services will issue a Tornado Warning. If a Tornado Warning is issued, follow the tornado guidelines.

  • Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or an NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
  • At Your House: Go to your secure location if you hear a severe thunderstorm warning. Damaging wind or large hail may be approaching. Take your pets with you if time allows.
  • At Your Workplace or School: Stay away from windows if you are in a severe thunderstorm warning and damaging wind or large hail is approaching. Do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums.
  • Outside: Go inside a sturdy building immediately if severe thunderstorms are approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Taking shelter under a tree can be deadly. The tree may fall on you. Standing under a tree also put you at a greater risk of getting struck by lightning.
  • In a Vehicle: Being in a vehicle during severe thunderstorms is safer than being outside; however, drive to closest secure shelter if there is sufficient time.

After a Severe Thunderstorm: 

What should you do when the lightning and thunder stop and it looks like the severe thunderstorm is over?

  • Stay Informed: Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. More severe thunderstorms could be headed your way.
  • Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you're okay so they can help spread the word. Text messages or social media are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.
  • Help Your Neighbor: If you come across people that are injured and you are properly trained, if needed, provide first aid to victims until emergency response team members arrive.
  • Assess the Damage: After you are sure the severe weather threat has ended, check your property for damages. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.