We often get questions similar to this:
"This storm is really severe! There's a ton of lightning on it! Why isn't it alerted?"
Just to clarify, as dangerous as lightning is, it alone doesn't classify a storm as "severe".
If lightning was considered "severe", then every single thunderstorm would have a "severe thunderstorm warning" and not only would we stop paying attention, it would be difficult to quickly recognize which storms were actually producing significant severe weather.
By significant, we mean, violent wind damage such as trees being knocked over or thrown, larger vehicles being overturned, debris flying in the air, dangerous flooding that covers roads and floods basements, nickel or larger hail and/or a tornado.
Lightning does have one thing going for it safety wise, it's hard to miss! There's no unsubscribing to Mother Nature's natural alerting system of very loud thunder and very bright lightning. Whether you like it or not, it's very easy to determine if a storm is producing thunder or lightning, even when it's far away from your location. And of course, we need to remember "When thunder roars, go indoors!" until 30 minutes after a storm has passed to be safe. In some cases, lightning can happen 5 or 10 miles (8 or 16 kilometres) or in rare cases, even further from a storm so we need to be careful, even after the storm has passed.
Long story slightly longer, alerting every single storm that produces lightning is only going to numb us to storm alerts that notify us of which storms are potentially producing significant severe weather.
So if you see a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, remember, it's not just because it's producing lightning, it's because it has the chance to produce some or all of the other unwanted risks associated with severe thunderstorms.
Hope that makes sense and please let us know if you have any questions in the comments! :)
- Adam S.
P.S. Image courtesy of Creative Commons / Mathias Krumbholz