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Severe storm potential

With thunderstorms, region is in the "slight risk" zone for damaging wind gusts.

The Storm Prediction Center, the nation's weather-mayhem headquarters, says there's a chance that today's storms might reach the "severre category," meaning they would pack wind gusts of 58 m.p.h. or better.

While the chances for gusts at that level aren't great, thunderstorms with heavy rains are almost a certainty, with perhaps and inch or more today and tonight.

Two things argue agains the storms reaching the severe category:

The cloud cover is foreboding, dark, and deep. That would cut off the sun's chances of heating the ground to provide extra fuel for storms.

Also, as the National Weather Service in Mount Holly notes in its morning discussion, heavy rains are likely, and, ironically, they could have dampening effect on a given storm's severity.

Tornado potential, we're pleased to report, is not in the forecast.

On average, one or two weak ones touch down around here annually, but ifIf you look at our quite informative online tornado list -- which we highily recommend -- you'll note that most of local twisters occurred in late summer or even later.

That's well after the peak season in Tornado Alley, the world's busiest tornado corridor.

Incidentally, Chet Henricksen, the retired chief of of the local National Weather Service office, documented that the region has its own modest tornado alley, a zone that extends from Parkesburg, Chester County, to Valley Forge.

Again, most of what touches down around here are hardly shadows of the Oklahoma monster, although the twister that killed a family of three in Limerick in July 1994 was declared an F3, on the old Fujita scale, with winds up to 206 m.p.h.

Henricksen, however, thought the intensity might have been overrated.