ODESSA, Texas — Severe storm season is upon us, and having knowledge of hazardous weather is important.
On NewsWest9, we frequently discuss Storm Prediction Center products, and it's imperative to understand what they mean.
You've probably seen maps highlighting certain regions in the U.S. in various colors in the past. These are called SPC outlooks, and they're issued around the country to recognize the threat level of potential storms.
There are five categories: marginal, slight, enhanced, moderate and high.
Most of the thunderstorms in the Permian Basin occur without any SPC issuances because the vast majority of storm outbreaks aren't severe. However, it isn't uncommon to be under a marginal risk, especially in the spring.
"When you move up to a level one, which is marginal, we still have the general thunderstorms, but there might be one or two strong to severe storms, which would be large hail, maybe some damaging winds, lightning, those type of things," said National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Amber Hluchen.
A marginal risk isn't too big of a concern, but it's still good to be on high alert.
The next two levels up, slight and enhanced, are a little more infrequent. We might be under a slight risk a dozen times each year, and an enhanced risk about once or twice every year.
With these categories, the probability of experiencing severe weather increases, and the threats become more dangerous. Large hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes are common in these scenarios.
A level four and five risk is when things get real.
"Going into levels four and five, which is the moderate and high risk, those are actually pretty rare out here," said Hluchen. "One person might experience a high risk one or two times in their life. So that's large tornadoes expected, very large hail, very damaging winds, things like that."
If you're ever under a level four or five, you should definitely have a plan in place. It's also good to realize that even under a level zero risk, which is just general thunderstorms, severe weather can still occur.
Thunderstorms don't really care what category they're in, and due to the complex nature of the atmosphere, it can be difficult to predict. However, these categories are generally still a good indicator of what kind of weather to expect.