Spring is here, and with the change in seasons comes an increased risk of severe weather. The Greater Kansas City area averages about 40-60 thunderstorm days per year, bringing strong winds, lightning, hail, heavy rain, flash floods and flooding and tornadoes.
Understanding the risks, knowing the signs of trouble and being prepared can help you and your loved ones stay safe during a severe thunderstorm.
Severe Weather Terms
The first part of staying safe is understanding the different types of severe weather warnings that might be issued in the Greater Kansas City area.
A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours.
- Flash Flood Watch
Indicates current or developing hydrologic conditions that are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent. Those in or near the watch area should:
- Be alert for changes in flooding
- Consider postponing travel
- Flash Flood Warning
Indicates that flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Those in the warning area should:
- Get to higher ground if you notice flooding in your area
- Do not drive through high water; abandon cars and climb to higher ground
A tornado is classified as a violently rotating column of air with circulation reaching the ground. It nearly always starts as a funnel cloud and may be accompanied by a loud roaring noise. It’s typically the most dangerous weather phenomenon.
- Tornado watch
Conditions are favorable for a tornado to develop. Those in or near the watch area should:
- Check your preparations for severe weather and take necessary precautions.
- Be alert for rapid changes in weather conditions.
- Monitor local radio, television networks, or your weather alert radio.
- Consider postponing travel.
- Tornado warning
A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar and danger is imminent.
- Take cover immediately!
- Monitor broadcast for specific hazard information until danger is clear of the area.
A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots) and/or hail at least 1″ in diameter. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. Only about 10 percent of the storms that occur each year in the United States are classified as severe.
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm to develop. Those in or near the watch area should:
- Be alert for changes in weather conditions and consider modifying travel plans.
- Monitor local radio, television networks, emergency apps or your weather alert radio for further potential developments.
- Check for and secure property (like patio furniture) that may be damaged or pose a hazard if severe weather develops suddenly.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning
A thunderstorm is occurring that rates a severe classification, meaning they can pose a danger to people and property, including the ability to produce tornadoes. Those under a severe thunderstorm warning should:
- Take cover.
- Monitor your smart phone, local radio and television networks for further details.
- Avoid travel until the warning expires.
Know Your Risk for Severe Storms
Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Listen for emergency information and alerts.
- Sign up for your community’s warning system.
- Follow the National Weather Service Forecast Office for Kansas City on social media for regional warnings and updates.
- The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
Know what to do in the event of severe weather, including when and where to seek shelter. Our severe thunderstorms page has tips on what to do (and not do) during a storm.
Older adults, children and individuals with medical needs are especially susceptible to the dangers of severe weather. Make sure that your safety and evacuation plans take these needs into consideration.