A mile-long swath of 80+ mph wind was likely the cause of a train derailment of 86 cars in Texas on Tuesday. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Midland, TX confirmed the information Wednesday afternoon. The train was carrying cargo at the time.
In a Public Information Statement released Wednesday evening, NWS Midland said it had sent meteorologists to Colorado City, Texas to investigate storm damage from the day prior. The meteorologists found that “significant thunderstorm wind damage occurred three miles east of Colorado City. Damage included five snapped power line poles and an 86 train car derailment less than one mile south of Interstate 20.”
The meteorologists’ report goes on to say that all of the damage was oriented in the same direction. That statement indicates the storm damage was likely due to straight-line wind, rather than a tornado. This swath of wind damage was estimated to be a little more than one mile in length with wind between 80 and 100 mph!
The train derailment damage occurred in northeastern Mitchell County, TX. A separate storm about nine miles southeast of Colorado City, TX caused damage in a cotton field. The storm “toppled a center pivot irrigation system, about 750 feet long” according to the NWS Midland office. The peak estimated wind with that storm is believed to be 65-70 mph.
This goes to show that severe thunderstorms are very powerful and can do similar damage compared to a tornado. In the short video below, WeatherNation Meteorologist Meredith Garofalo explains what straight line wind is and why it is so dangerous.
All pictures courtesy the National Weather Service – Midland, TX