WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a time to make sure you are ready for the upcoming storm season. The KSN Storm Track 3 Weather Team provides the most accurate weather information before, during, and after the storm. The process by which our team receives the latest local storm reports starts and ends with you.

Whether it is a phone call or a social media post, storm reports come flooding in after a damaging storm passes through the area. The following morning is most important in determining what happened – whether it was a tornado, straight-line winds, or a downburst.

“It sometimes can take most of the afternoon or most of the day. We have to go back and find where the damage started. We have to find where it ends too, and we have to go along during the way,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Brad Ketcham.

Ketcham calls surveying damage an extensive process. Ketcham and his colleagues head out to ground zero to look at the damage and spot certain factors that show exactly what the storm did.

“If it is damaging winds, we’re looking for all of the trees laying down in one direction for a microburst or for straight-line winds. If it’s tornadic damage, we’re looking for a distinct path,” said Ketcham.

Ketcham says these are things you can look out for to make initial storm reports more accurate. Storm damage can still be difficult to determine with just the naked eye.

“We do look at the radar data and the radar data that we have before we go out to see what kind of storm we’re dealing with,” said Ketcham.

Sending in pictures of damage helps speed up the pipeline of information that eventually reaches us here at KSN and then to you at home.

Engineer and Meteorologist Tim Marshall also lends a hand in improving accuracy when it comes to surveying damage. Marshall works on improving and updating the Enhanced Fujita Scale which is used to rate tornadoes based on the damage and estimated wind speeds.

“There’s always room for improvement on these scales. They are subjective, but the more information we gather, the better off we are in terms of accuracy,” said Marshall.

Marshall has decades of experience surveying damage. He is familiar with the Sunflower State and the valuable data that past storms provided.

“Kansas has actually played a role in providing information for the Enhanced Fujita Scale,” said Marshall.

With the efforts of surveying damage and improving the accuracy of storm reports, Ketcham says he and his colleagues are always mindful of the people impacted while out in the field.

“We’re stepping through their lives. We’re stepping through their damage, through their personal effects, and we have to be cognizant of that when we’re out there doing what we have to do, but we need to find out what these storms do,” said Ketcham.

To submit your local storm reports, weather videos, and pictures, click here.

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F ScaleCharacterEstimated windsDescription
Zero (F0)Weak40-72 mphLight Damage. Some damage to chimneys; branches broken off trees, shallow-rooted trees uprooted, signs damaged.
One (F1)Weak73-112 mphModerate damage. Roof surfaces peeled off; mobile homes pushed foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off road.
Two (F2)Strong113-157 mphConsiderable damage. Roofs torn from frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light objects become projectiles.
Three (F3)Strong158-206 mphSevere damage. Roofs and some walls torn from well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forested area uprooted; heavy cars lifted and thrown.
Four (F4)Violent207-260 mphDevastating damage. Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundation blown some distance; cars thrown; large missiles generated.
Five (F5)Violent260-318 mphIncredible damage. Strong frame houses lifted off foundations, carried considerable distances, and disintegrated; auto-sized missiles airborne for several hundred feet or more; trees debarked.