Severe Weather Threats


A downburst is a small area of rapidly descending air beneath a thunderstorm. Downburst winds are often referred to as "straight-line" winds. Severe downbursts produce wind gusts from 60 mph to more than 100 mph. The damage is often similar to damage from a weak tornado. Downburst damage is far more common in southeast Texas than tornado damage.

Large Hail

Hail is formed as strong rising currents of air within a storm (updrafts) carry water droplets to a height where freezing occurs. The ice particles travel upward and downward through the storm several times, growing in size. Once they become too heavy to be supported by the storm's updraft, they fall to the ground as hail. Hail of 3/4 inch in diameter or larger classifies "large" or damaging hail. Hail sizes are usually given as references to everyday objects to make it easier to estimate hail size. Baseball sized hail can break car windshields! Due to our proximity to the Gulf coast, hail greater than baseball size is rare in southeast Texas. Hail can damage crops and can also cause damage to automobiles and rooftops.

Examples of Hail Sizes

  • Pea sized: 0.25 inch
  • Penny sized: 0.75 inch
  • Nickel sized: 0.88 inch
  • Quarter sized (classifies storm as severe): 1 inch
  • Golf ball sized: 1.75 inches
  • Baseball sized: 2.75 inches


Tornadoes are another threat from severe thunderstorms. See the Tornado section for more information.

Cloud-to-Ground Lightning

Severe thunderstorms can produce extremely dangerous lightning. See the Lightning section for more information.

Flash Flooding

Heavy rains from severe thunderstorms can produce flash flooding. See the Floods/Flash Floods section for more information.