The Blue Ridge Weather Watch does not have any criteria to follow in reporting severe weather conditions to us.
If you feel threatened by any severe weather condition, we would like to hear from you. Remember, you do not have to be a Blue Ridge Weather Watch member or an NWS trained spotter to send us reports.

Here are a few things to report:
STRONG WINDS: Limbs blown off of trees, twisting winds, funnel clouds, and wall clouds.

HEAVY RAIN: Water standing on roadways or large amounts of water in ditches or gullies.

HAIL (ANY SIZE): If you get any size of hail, we would like to know about it and the diameter (in inches).

LIGHTNING: Lightning strikes in your area.

ICE: Ice forming on trees or power lines.

SNOW: When snow is beginning to stick on roadways and driveways.

IDENTIFY YOURSELF and give the location of the event you are reporting. This may not be your current location, but the location of the event you are reporting. Also, the NWS prefers that you give cross streets. Rather than 123 Main Street in Morganton, they prefer near the intersection of Main Street and Elm Avenue.


The direction and approximate distance from a known location of the event, not your current location. Please give the cross street or cross roads, not addresses or mile markers.

Make sure to note the time of your observation.

Give a description of the direction, speed of travel, size and the intensity of the event.
And most important, stay safe! Do not endanger yourself or your loved ones to report an event.

The NWS classifies a thunderstorm as severe if it produces a tornado, hail 1 inch or more in diameter, and/or wind gusts are 58 miles per hour or greater.


  1. Always have a safe place nearby to protect yourself from wind and/or hail.

  2. Cars are a safe place from lightning, but NOT from tornadoes.

  3. Moving water is powerful, it only takes a slight current to push a vehicle off the road.

  4. Large hail often falls just in advance of a tornado, especially large tornadoes.

  5. Tornadoes generally move toward the NORTHEAST at 25 to 35 MPH when associated with fronts, and squall lines CAN travel at 70 MPH.

  6. The first gust of wind to reach you from a thunderstorm is frequently the strongest.

  7. WALL CLOUDS form on the rain free base often 15 to 20 minutes before the tornado occurs.

  8. A rain free base denotes the storm’s updraft area, a place to watch closely.

  9. Overshooting tops are an indicator of a very strong storm.

  10. TORNADOES usually form in the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. Wind speeds can reach 300 MPH in “MAX” TORNADOES. Conventional radar cannot see a tornado. it only sees the rain and hail.


When spotting for wall clouds, funnel clouds, tornadoes, and waterspouts, the key is always to look for rotation! Often, scud clouds are mistaken for funnels or tornadoes because they may form beneath the parent thunderstorm and appear to touch the ground. Just remember: with scud there will be no rotation.

When estimating wind speed, feel free to use the Beaufort Wind Scale (condensed below). Study the description of the effects observed, and choose the appropriate wind speed range from the table. Report the speed in miles per hour or in knots. DO NOT REPORT THE BEAUFORT FORCE NUMBER. This will likely send the meteorologists at the National Weather Service scurrying for reference books, wasting valuable time.

25-31 – Large branches moving. Whistling in overhead wires.
32-38 – Whole trees moving. Inconvenience walking against wind.
39-46 – Small branches (twigs) break. Impedes walking.
46-54 – Slight structural damage. Larger branches, and weak limbs may break.
55-63 – Moderate structural and tree damage.
64 and above – Heavy to severe tree and structural damage.

When reporting wind direction remember that meteorologists always do things backwards. The wind direction reported is ALWAYS the direction from which the wind is blowing. For example, if you report the winds as Southerly at 10 mph, that means the winds are coming from the south blowing to the north.

When reporting hail, use the common references that are used by the National Weather Service. That is, describe them as pea-sized (1/4 inch), marble-sized (1/2 inch), dime-sized (3/4 inch), quarter-sized (1 inch), golfball-sized (1 3/4 inch), baseball-sized (2 3/4 inch) (Let’s hope you never have to report that!)

When assessing wind damage, remember that most wind damage is done by straight-line winds, not by tornadoes. With straight-line wind damage, all the damage will look like it diverges (moves outwards) from a single point possibly in several directions. With tornado damage, destruction is generally along one direction, debris along the ground is twisted or has spiral characteristics, and often small arcs where the top-soil has been removed are visible.

If a person is struck by lightning, take appropriate action to ensure immediate aid is given. A person retains no electrical charge after being struck, so it is safe to touch that person. This means CPR can be administered immediately if necessary.

Another way you can send precipitation-type reports to NOAA is through the mPING app. Click here to learn more about the mPING project.