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Severe Thunderstorms

(Photo courtesy of Ken Cheek)

According to the North Carolina State Climate Office, thunderstorms typically are 15 miles or less in diameter and last an average of 20 to 30 minutes. Downbursts and straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms can produce winds of 100-150 miles per hour – enough to flip large trucks and endanger airplane landings and takeoffs. Downburst activity from a severe thunderstorm caused major damage to a home in the Kernersville area in 2006.

The National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or greater, or produces a tornado. Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms in the United States each year, only about 10% are classified as severe.

Lightning, a major threat during a thunderstorm, is responsible for more deaths each year in the United States than are tornadoes. Since lightning strikes are very unpredictable, the risk to individuals and property can be significant.

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