What makes thunderstorms so dangerous in Central Texas?

Springtime is storm season in Texas. But how do these storms form?

There is a three-ingredient recipe for the perfect storm, according to meteorologist Zack Shields

"You got to have moisture, you got to have lift and the energy - you get all three? Look out for storms," Shields said.

"Sometimes you have maybe four or six hours to prepare for severe weather outbreak where ingredients come together quickly, and then you have to get ready for that weather event," Zack explains. 

Our FOX 7 meteorologists use computer weather models to measure the severity of storms. 

"So you go through that storm checklist," Zack said. "Do you have enough moisture, which is fuel, lift or motion and energy or instability?"

Our meteorologists check five to six different models to be sure of their storm predictions. 

"And if all of them are showing storms, then we're gaining confidence that, yes, we may have a severe weather outbreak. It gets tricky if one or two just show that," explains Zack. "And then you have to use your knowledge and experience to get that accurate forecast for severe weather."


A chance of rain can also mean a chance for hail, but additional ingredients are needed. 

"If you have flat clouds, you know, they're not the vertically challenge or flat. You're not going to see a good potential for hail or a good chance for hail," Zack explains. "But when you see those clouds building up and they grow taller and taller, they're going to a spot where it's freezing."

"So when the raindrops get caught up in that updraft, and they go way up in the atmosphere, they start to freeze, OK? They get super cool, and then they start to form a little ice pellet. OK? And then they start to fall again, and they'll start to gather more and more water. So it's a cycle that super cool droplet keeps going up and down, up and down. Then eventually it turns into a hailstone and keeps going up and down, up and down," Zack said. "And then as it gathers more and more water droplets around it, it will refreeze the hell. Stone will keep getting bigger and bigger, and it will get to the point where those updrafts that possibly go 60, 80 miles per hour, they cannot keep that hailstone up in the cloud, the storm cloud, and then it will fall to the ground."

The stronger the updraft, the stronger the potential for a massive hailstone. 

Gina Brown lives just north of Salado, and preserved a large hailstone that measured almost six inches long following severe weather in the area earlier this year. 

"It just sounded like the roof was being pummeled, and I’ll tell you the thing that was more concerning to me, it was; bam, bam. Bam, bam, like consecutive banging on the roof and all of a sudden absolutely nothing," said Brown.

"Pea size, hail, dime-sized hail. No, it's not going to do a whole lot of damage," Zack said. "But quarter-size or larger. Yes, that's when you'll start to see damage to property damage."

Not just damaging, but potentially dangerous. 

This is why our meteorologists know what to look for ahead of time. 

Track your local forecast for the Austin area quickly with the free FOX 7 WAPP. The design gives you radar, hourly, and 7-day weather information just by scrolling. Our weather alerts will warn you early and help you stay safe during storms.