Explaining Straight Line Winds
8 Jul 2020 7:00 PM
When there’s a threat for severe thunderstorms for your area, the most common danger is straight-line winds, also known as downbursts.
The process starts with air rising within the strong updraft of a storm. It then cools, condenses, and as a result tiny drops of water form.
The droplets increase in size and then combine with others, eventually becoming too heavy. Then, these droplets fall toward the surface within a pocket of cold air.
After the air hits the ground, it compresses and forces the winds to increase very quickly outward sometimes exceeding 165 miles per hour!
Damaging winds come in many different forms including small scale microbursts, broad spanning derechos, and even haboobs associated with drier thunderstorms.
Downbursts are different from winds associated with a tornado. Instead of winds flowing out of the storm, with a tornado winds flow into it. After the storm, local national weather service offices will conduct storm surveys to look for circulation to determine if it was a straight line wind event or a tornado.
But remember – it’s not the wind itself that can be deadly, it is what is in the wind that’s dangerous. That’s why it’s always important to stay weather aware and be prepared whenever severe weather threatens your community.