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What Are Straight Line Winds?

When you think of damage from a storm, a tornado may come to mind.

Tornados are well known and discussed in the news frequently – they even star in movies! But did you know that there’s another wind-based storm you should have on your radar?

Read on to learn about straight-line winds and the intense damage they can cause.  

What Are Straight-Line Winds?

In order to explain what straight-line winds are, it’s first important to know what they aren’t. Straight-line winds are not tornados. To be classified as a tornado, the wind must rotate. It’s also important to note that straight-line winds are not your run-of-the-mill damaging wind (a catchall term used to define wind events under 50 miles per hour).

Straight-line winds are the result of a very specific weather pattern and exceed 50 miles per hour, potentially matching the wind speed – and damage – of a tornado.

What Causes Straight-Line Winds?

Also known as downbursts or convective wind gusts, straight-line winds are one of the rare by-products that can result from a strong thunderstorm. During a strong thunderstorm, it is sometimes possible for cool, dry air to build up inside the storm system. Over time, this pocket of air becomes much heavier than the surrounding warm air. The difference in weight, density, and temperature causes the system to push the dry air downward, towards the ground at a high speed in a microburst, creating a straight-line wind that fans out as it nears the surface of the earth. Straight-line winds may accelerate to a speed in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Straight-Line Winds vs. Tornados

Tornados that touch ground often destroy homes and commercial buildings, creating casualties. Straight-line windstorms are less likely to topple a building, but can still be very destructive as trees are knocked over, roofs are torn from houses and temporary or modular structures may be moved from their foundation.

In the moment, it can be very difficult to determine which type of wind event you’re experiencing – a straight-line windstorm or a close call with a tornado. Without first-hand accounts of the tornado-shaped funnel, it’s often up to the damage itself to tell us what type of weather system just rolled through.

Damage from a straight-line windstorm is easy to identify, especially from the sky. After a straight-line wind, the damage will show a straight swath of damage. This is particularly apparent in forests and wooded areas, where straight-line winds make downed trees look like toothpicks all knocked over in the same direction for miles across.

Protect Your Home From Straight-Line Winds

Though they rarely collapse buildings, it’s important to note that straight-line winds can be just as dangerous and damaging as some tornados.

Because they can be caused by thunderstorms, anyone living in a thunderstorm-prone area is at risk for experiencing this threatening weather pattern.

Make sure you and your home are prepared should straight-line windstorms hit your area:

  • Pick up the Yard

Loose items in your yard can turn into projectiles during a severe wind event, including tables, chairs, children’s toys, gardening equipment, and fallen tree limbs.

  • Maintain Trees

Stay on top of yard maintenance tasks including tree trimming. Low-hanging branches and dead limbs may become battering rams in high winds. 

  • Inspect the Roof

Inspect your roof annually and after any major storms. Keep an eye out for small holes, loose shingles and damage to gutters and eaves.

  • Keep Your Emergency Kit up to Date

Just like a tornado or a severe thunderstorm, straight-line winds can damage utilities like power lines and knock over trees, blocking roadways. Be prepared by stocking an emergency kit with everything your household may need for at least three days. 

  • Know Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

Familiarize yourself with your home insurance policy or renter’s insurance policy. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered – especially as it pertains to accommodations should your home be damaged by straight-line winds. Purchase additional coverage if necessary.

We Make Disasters Disappear

Like tornados, blizzards, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, we can’t prevent but we can prepare and recover. Taking steps towards maintaining your property, year-round, and keeping a stocked emergency preparedness kit will help you face any storm, head-on.

Should your property fall victim to a natural disaster, choose Rainbow Restoration for restoration, remediation, and full-service reconstruction services (where available) designed to get you back to normal, fast.

Don’t wait, call Rainbow Restoration's 24/7 emergency service line today or request an appointment online to get started.

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