Severe thunderstorm safety rules


A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM is defined as a thunderstorm containing at least one of the following: 3/4 inch hail, wind gusts in excess of 58 mph, or a tornado. Of the thousands of thunderstorms that occur in Kansas each year, only a small percentage of them become severe. Those that do, can threaten lives and property, as well as cause huge crop losses across our state.

Fortunately, the hail and winds in a severe thunderstorm seldom kill anyone, but the lightning and tornadoes do. Be sure to check out our pages on the dangers of each of these and how to be safe.


Whenever a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM approaches, you will want to get inside a building that will provide you adequate protection from large hail and very strong winds. You will also want to STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS as these are structurally the weakest part of a house and can easily be broken out by large hail or flying debris.


Make sure you are ready for severe weather by putting together an emergency preparedness kit and keeping it in your shelter or safe area. The kit should include the following items.

Emergency preparedness kit

  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio and/or TV
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Hard-soled shoes
  • Cell phone
  • Blankets

The Wichita area has had very bad luck with the date, June 19th in the 1990s. On two separate years, very strong SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS moved across southcentral Kansas causing immense damage and hardship.The first of these was in 1990 when a type of SEVERE THUNDERSTORM called a “derecho” moved across during the late evening hours. A derecho (pronounced der-ray’-sho) is a wind storm that can last for hours and has a long, wide damage path. On this day, the storms developed around Pratt after sunset and quickly became severe. Wind gusts of 120 mph were recorded around Kingman with 100 year-old trees uprooted. By the time it moved into the Wichita area, it was many miles wide and blew down hundreds of miles of power lines, many trees and some buildings. Every television and radio station in the city was off-the-air as their transmitting towers were blown down. The Valley Center area of northern Sedgwick County was especially hard-hit.Just 2 years later, in 1992, SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS of a different kind blew into the area. This time it started in the early morning with an unconfirmed tornado touching down near Andale at around 4:30 in the morning. As this thunderstorm moved into the Wichita area, the tornado threat decreased, but large hail started falling from it and caused damage to roofs and cars. Little did we know that the worst was yet to come! By mid-morning, another SEVERE THUNDERSTORM developed near Russell, dropping baseball-sized hail as it moved southeast. It continued to produce large hail and threw in 60 mph winds as it moved into the Hutchinson area. Shortly after noon, the storm moved into Wichita with large amounts of golfball-to-baseball sized hail and 60+ mph winds! The West Street area was hit particularly hard with nearly every window on the north sides of the buildings, every store sign, and every car window being knocked out. Hail drifts could be found in the Twin Lakes area for hours after the storm passed. You can still drive around Wichita and see cars and houses that bear the scars of JUNE 19TH!


The KSN PINPOINT WEATHER CENTER TEAM will help your family stay safe during a severe thunderstorm in several different ways. First, whenever a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING is issued by the NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, in Wichita, Dodge City, Goodland, Topeka, Hastings, NE,  we will let you know of the danger with the KSN StormWarn system. If the SEVERE THUNDERSTORM contains 70 mph or higher and/or baseball sized hail or larger, we consider it “particularly dangerous” and will BREAK INTO PROGRAMMING to let you know of the threat.Photograph courtesy of The Wichita National Weather Service.

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