Damaging Winds: What are they and what are the types?

As with anything that can come with severe weather, damaging winds can cause a ton of damage. What exactly are the types of damaging winds? They are explained below.

Damaging winds are often called “straight-line” winds to differentiate the damage they cause from tornado damage. Strong thunderstorm winds can come from a number of different processes. Most thunderstorm winds that cause damage at the ground are a result of outflow generated by a thunderstorm downdraft. Damaging winds are classified as those exceeding 50-60 mph. Wind speeds can reach up to 100 mph and can produce a damage path extending for hundreds of miles. Since most thunderstorms produce some straight-line winds, those who are living in mobile homes and highly wooded areas are more at risk. However, straight-line winds can occur anywhere in the world.

Straight-lined winds are used to define any thunderstorm wind that is not associated with rotation, these are used mainly to differentiate from tornadic winds. A downdraft, is a small-scale column of air that rapidly sinks toward the ground. A downburst however, is a result of a strong downdraft. These usually have an outward burst of damaging winds on or near the ground. The horizontal dimension is larger than 4 km (2.5 mi). Downburst winds may begin as a microburst and spread out over a wider area, sometimes producing damage similar to a strong tornado.

A microburst (which was covered in another article), is a small concentrated downburst that produces an outward burst of damaging winds at the surface. While they are generally small and short lived, they can last anywhere from five to ten minutes, with a maximum wind speed of 168 mph. Another form of damaging wind is a gust front. A gust front is the leading edge of a storm, where the cooler air clashes with the warmer thunderstorm inflow. These can sometimes form a shelf cloud or detached roll cloud. A derecho, is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. A typical derecho consists of numerous microbursts, downbursts, and downburst clusters. If the wind damage (swath) extends more than 240 miles and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho.


(A microburst is a small concentrated downburst that produces an outward burst of damaging winds at the surface. Microbursts are generally small and short-lived)


(A downburst is a strong downdraft that results in an outward burst of damaging winds on or near the ground. Downburst winds may begin as a microburst and spread out over a wider area.)

For more information about straight line winds, visit: https://weather.com/tv/shows/amhq/video/straight-line-winds-vs-tornadoes#/!

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