Weather 101 – Learn How to Tell If a Potentially Dangerous Storm Is Coming!

Summer might be a time for fun in the sun and relaxation, but sometimes it can be a time of scary storms, especially in the month of June. In these times, it’s best to be knowledgeable about the weather and know what to expect so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

There are several types of clouds that come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and shades, and each type can be an indicator of good or bad weather to come. With practice, you, too, can learn to predict upcoming weather conditions. All you need to do is be familiar with the clouds and observe them!

One of the easiest ways to know if your day is going to be full of rain or just cloudy is by looking at the height and color of clouds. If the clouds are higher, puffy, and dark in tint, you will more than likely have rain on the way shortly. If they are white or light gray and/or low clouds, it’s bound to just be a cloudy day.

But how can you determine if those dark clouds you see on the horizon are just benign rain clouds or if they are severe thunderstorm clouds with the potential of producing tornadoes?

The difference between whether a storm will give rain, hail, and strong winds but no tornado versus those that will spawn tornadoes is quite subtle. Forecasters traditionally examine observations and computer data to locate regions in which strong instability and changes in wind coexist. In fact, the Doppler radar is one of the best ways to track impeding tornado formations.

Here’s how you can tell if a storm that’s coming toward you could carry just a few rain showers or if it has the potential to produce tornadoes:

Watch the Clouds Closely – Not all dark clouds are the same. A severe storm with the potential of developing deadly weather will often look very dark or even have a sickly green tint. The clouds should be very large, low-lying cumulonimbus clouds. Additionally, the cumulonimbus clouds you see will begin to develop vertically at a rapid pace. Keep a careful eye out for any rotation in the clouds.

Pay Attention to the Temperature – In order for severe storms and tornadoes to form, a mixture of warm, moist air at low levels have to collide with dry, relatively cold air above. Wind shear, which is the difference in the wind speeds near the surface and about 20,000 feet above the ground, will slam the conditions together. If you’re standing outside, pay very close attention to the temperature. If you feel the temperature drop from warm or hot to a more brisk temperature, you know the storm is approaching very quickly.

Beware of Sudden Wind Changes – Be on your toes if it suddenly gets very windy or if there is an abrupt calm during or right after a thunderstorm. That eerie calm isn’t necessarily indicating the end of a storm, but it could be a sign of potentially dangerous weather to come very shortly.

Pay Attention to Precipitation Changes – Be aware of hail or heavy rain following by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Large hail can sometimes (but not always) precede a tornado.

Refer to a Barometer – If you happen to have a barometer on hand, check it few hours. If you notice that there is a rapid drop in pressure, then a storm is approaching.

Listen Intently – As you observe the storm, try to eliminate any unnecessary sounds and listen very closely. If you hear a loud roar or an intense noise that is similar to a freight train, take shelter right away; a tornado has more than likely spawned.

Know the Difference Between Watch and Warning – Many people get tornado watches and warnings mixed up. A watch simply means that tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A warning, on the other hand, means that a tornado has been spotted or indicated on the radar. If you find yourself in an area that is under a tornado warning, you need to seek shelter right away.

Check the Radar – You don’t have to be a meteorologist to interpret the radar. When observing storms on the radar, look for large lines of red. Keep a watchful eye toward the front-end of the line and look for hooks, that is, a place on the storm cell that looks like it’s hooking in a direction. Sometimes if you notice a small green patch in between two larger patches of red, that could indicate danger. The best way to interpret the weather, however, is by keeping the weather forecasters on and listening to everything they say; they are the experts, after all!

If you find weather fascinating or want to be in-the-know so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe, we advise that you sign up for a storm-spotting class around the area. Anyone can take these classes, and those from high school age on up can sign up to be a volunteer storm spotter. You can find more about these classes here.

While these tips can help you pick out nasty weather, they are not infallible. The weather can sometimes change at the drop of a hat, even surprising professionals. When that happens, it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. Call us to make sure that your home, auto, and farm are covered. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us at for more information!