A Look at the 2018 Severe Weather Season

By Kailey Joyce July 11, 2018

Slow Start to the Season…

During this spring and early summer, regions prone to severe thunderstorms saw significantly fewer storms. Oklahoma did not even have a confirmed tornado until May 1st – that’s a record-breaking statistic! According to the National Weather Service’s archive of Storm Reports, total severe weather reports through the first quarter of 2018 were less than a quarter of what they were in Q1 of 2017 and less than half of Q1 in 2016. However, it is not unusual for the season to start slowly and ramp up in June and mid-summer. Yet, for some years (2014 and 2015, for example), the relatively quiet severe weather seasons continued throughout the summer.

NOAA NWS: Storm Prediction Center Annual Severe Weather Report Summary preliminary data (2008-2018)

What may have caused this? Based on upper-level weather patterns, limited instability developed over the Central US during spring. The upper-level flow from the north caused cooler temperatures and winter weather to linger across most of the country late into April. Also, a weaker flow of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico hampered afternoon storm development. These are all important components in producing thunderstorms. Combined, they limited the number of severe weather outbreaks.

In spite of the storm season’s slow start, we have still seen some very significant weather events.

Noteworthy Events

Figure: Radar image from evening of May 15, 2018 (Image taken from NOAA NCEI Radar Data Map)

April Tornado Outbreak – The damage inflicted by the thunderstorms across the East in mid-April belied the fact that 2018 would start with a very quiet severe weather season. A major system moved eastward across the central/eastern US. While winter weather and flooding impacted the Midwest, severe thunderstorms resulted in three days of tornadic activity from the Mississippi Valley across the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, ranging from EF0–EF3 tornadoes.

Strong Windstorms – For a few days in mid-May, strong winds and large hail battered the region from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. May 14th brought wind damage and flooding to Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region, and on the following day another line of strong thunderstorms blew through the region and up through the Northeast.

Colorado Hail – The eastern region of Colorado near Denver, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, has seen multiple back-to-back severe hail events this June. Tennis ball to baseball size hail was reported falling in eastern Colorado, associated with thunderstorms on June 18th and 19th, coming one week after a large event in Colorado Springs.

Figure: Impacted areas from a few of the June hail events displayed with Verisk’s Respond product

Dallas, Texas Severe Storms – In the early hours of May 6th, isolated severe thunderstorms popped up over Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, as storms developed along a frontal boundary extending across central Texas. Large hail battered the metro area in the middle of the night, resulting in widespread damage to property. The extent of property and housing claims associated with this single hail event could potentially be the largest of 2018. 

Improving the Claims Process

During severe storm season, the influx of weather-related claims causes many difficulties for adjusters and insurance carriers. Thankfully, the latest weather tech can help them prepare for and respond to events with remarkable efficiency.

Benchmark – Determining the correct date of loss continues to be a major issue for handling hail, lightning, and wind claims. Benchmark reports address these problems by providing accurate weather data to differentiate the impacts and timing of severe events that may have affected the same region. It only takes one major thunderstorm to vastly increase claims volumes. The right weather data can help carriers and adjusters expedite the claims process.

Learn more about how our weather solutions can impact your business by visiting: Xactware.com/WeatherSolutions.