Marble-sized hail expected with thunderstorms in North Texas Saturday

A weather alert issued by the NWS Fort Worth TX on Saturday at 7:32 a.m. is warning residents of strong thunderstorms until 8 a.m. The alert is for Dallas, Kaufman and Ellis counties.

The storms may bring marble-sized hail (0.5 inches).

"At 7:31 a.m., Doppler radar tracked a strong thunderstorm over Waxahachie, moving east at 35 mph," according to the NWS. "Minor damage to outdoor objects is possible."

Expect strong thunderstorms in Ennis and Palmer around 7:35 a.m.

The NWS states, "If outdoors, consider seeking shelter inside a building. Torrential rainfall is also occurring with this storm and may lead to localized flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways. Frequent cloud to ground lightning is occurring with this storm. Lightning can strike 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. Seek a safe shelter inside a building or vehicle."

This alert is in effect until 8 a.m.

What to do as threat of lightning approaches?

Around 25 million lightning strikes occur in the United States every year, with most taking place during the summer months. The NWS reports that these strikes result in about 20 fatalities annually. The probability of lightning strikes rises as a thunderstorm approaches and peaks when the storm is directly above. As the storm moves away, this likelihood decreases.

Here are recommendations for maintaining safety during a thunderstorm:

• To reduce the chance of being struck by lightning, when venturing outside, have a plan to get to a safer area.

• If the sky becomes menacing and thunder becomes audible, seek out a safe place to seek shelter.

• Once inside, avoid contact with corded phones, electrical equipment, plumbing, and windows and doors.

• Wait 30 minutes after the last lightning or thunder before going back outside.

If finding indoor shelter is not an option:

• Avoid open fields, the top of a hill, or a ridge top.

• Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.

• If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members.

• If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low area. Remember, a tent offers no protection from lighting.

• Keep a distance from water, wet articles, and metal objects. While water and metal do not draw lightning, they are proficient conductors of electricity.

What steps to follow when driving in the rain?

• Switch on headlights — Even during daylight hours, using headlights can enhance visibility and signal your presence to other drivers.

• While driving — Stick to the middle lanes and stay on elevated ground. Rainwater tends to accumulate at the road edges.

• Avoid puddles — Driving into puddles or low rainwater areas can lead to vehicles hydroplaning or losing control.

• Don't tail large vehicles closely — Trucks or buses can kick up a water spray that obstructs visibility.

• Avoid flooded zones — If you encounter a flooded road, make a U-turn and go back. The powerful currents of flash floods can carry drivers off the road. Driving through deep water can also damage a vehicle's mechanical and electrical systems.

What is hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning is the term for when a vehicle begins sliding uncontrollably on wet roads.

This happens when water in front of the tire builds up faster than the vehicle’s weight can push water out of the way. The water pressure then causes the vehicle to rise and slide on a thin layer of water between the tires and the road, making the driver lose control. Hydroplaning is most commonly attributed to three factors:

1. Vehicle speed — When a vehicle’s speed increases, the tire-traction grip and ability to control the vehicle decreases. Drive at a reduced speed during wet weather.

2. Water depth — The deeper the water, the sooner a vehicle loses traction on the road. It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, even a thin layer can lead to hydroplaning.

3. Tire tread depth — Checking your tire tread before hitting the road is important, as low or no tread can lead to sliding.

In the event of your vehicle hydroplaning, here’s what to know:

• Ease off the accelerator — Step off the gas to slow down the vehicle until the tires find traction.

• Turn into the skid — Turning into the skid can help the vehicle’s tires realign to regain control.

• Make sure the tires reconnect with the road — During the skid, wait until the tires reconnect with the road and then gently straighten the wheels to regain control.

• Brake gently as needed — Brake normally if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes and pump brakes gently if in an older vehicle.

Source: The National Weather Service