What are straight-line winds?

After storms pass through the meteorologist talks about storm damage to roofs from straight-lined winds.  What exactly does “straight -line winds” mean, and what kind of damage does it cause? Here we are going to review why and how they occur. If you look outside and see a bunch of roof tarps, straight-line winds were most likely the culprit.

The classification of straight-line winds is given by the National Weather service if the winds speeds meet or exceed fifty-eight miles per hour.   These winds are typically associated with quick moving storms, where there are strong updrafts and downdrafts and dry air is present.

Cooler dryer air, surrounded by warm air will be pushed down because the cold air is denser. This downward motion is propelled and increased by the storm’s fast movement.   Straight-line winds can produce strong gust out ahead of the storm. Often times the cold air can be felt by observers at the surface.

Storm surveyors go out and access the damage after a storm to determine if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.   They look for indicators in the damage, as straight-line winds will push storm debris in the same direction.   Tornados on the other hand, will scatter debris in all directions because of the rotation of the wind. During a hurricane you get both straight-line winds and pockets where the elements are right for tornados to develop.  The damage from the straight-line winds can be so severe people can only believe that kind of damage could be from a tornado.

To reduce damage from straight-line wind make sure patio furniture is secured and trees are trimmed. Trees limbs falling cause the most damage. When trees are not trimmed the wind can not pass through them and they and up breaking off or being uprooted.   You cannot stop straight-line wind but you can to the best you can to prepare.