WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Severe History Sources

Posted March 26, 2007

With "Severe Weather Awareness Week" for 2007 now behind us, I thought I'd address a type of question that arises fairly often among our viewers and web visitors, namely where to look up information about severe weather events in the recent past or to find out about the number of storms of a particular type that have impacted a given location within our viewing area. Fortunately, there are some very useful online tools available to address these kinds of questions, and some of you might enjoy using these directly to research recent events or look into the storm history for your own town or county.

The online resources fall into three broad categories, each maintained by a different government organization concerned with weather and/or climate. First, for immediate, bare bones reports on observed tornadoes, strong wind and large hail events, the Storm Prediction Center maintains a Severe Weather Reports page where you can see a color-coded map and a text listing of recent "local storm reports," and can also use a form near the bottom of the page to retrieve similar pages as far back as 1999. The images above are examples of the type of map available at this site, which you can access at

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/

A somewhat more complete and searchable database from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville provides a way to drill down to you own county and look for reports of severe weather within the period 1950 through as recently as 3-4 months ago. This system also adds a filtering function, so that you can limit your search, for example, to a particular day, month, year or period of any of those, and you can also choose to retrieve info only for specific types of storms or magnitudes of impact. As an example, using the database I could quickly determine that Wake County, where I currently live, has experienced seven tornadoes of F2 or greater intensity since 1950, but only one producing F3 or higher damage. Likewise, I could check to see how many times between 1960 and 2000 Nash county, where I grew up, reported hail of 1.5 inches or greater diameter, the answer being ten times, with the largest hail on record there 2.5 inches in April 1989. This database is available at

http://www4.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-win/wwcgi.dll?wwEvent~Storms

Finally, some of the more widespread or high-impact severe weather outbreaks across our region become the subjects of "event summaries" or case studies that provide an overview of the event and the weather patterns that produced it, written by meteorologists at the National Weather Service office that was responsible for forecasting the event and issuing any required warnings. The Raleigh Weather Service office, located on Centennial Campus at NCSU, maintains a nice collection of these summaries online, and you can browse through them at

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/rah/events/

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