Advertisement

What’s the difference between straight line wind damage vs. tornado damage?

Tornado picture
Tornado picture(MGN/Pixabay)
Published: Aug. 8, 2020 at 8:40 PM EDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(WHSV) - Severe weather created significant impacts for portions of the Valley. Flooding was a notable issue Thursday but damaging winds and a possible tornado dominated weather headlines Thursday and Friday.

For our viewing area, the first tornado warning of 2020 was issued Thursday afternoon in southeastern Rockingham County and east central Augusta County where rotation was identified on radar near the Grottoes area.

The storms left their mark. US-11 near Fort Defiance and Mount Sidney flooded over. Other areas of flooding occurred in areas east of I-81 near Weyers Cave and Grottoes. Wind damage was also widespread between Verona, Weyers Cave, Grottoes, and Crimora. No tornado has been confirmed in the severe weather events Thursday and Friday.

So how can we tell what is straight line wind damage and what is tornado damage? It all begins with direction.

Straight line winds are well, straight. They are caused from a violent downdraft in a thunderstorm. Tornado winds spin, so impact on the ground is different. Winds from a tornado are stronger. Usually, tornadoes are not confirmed until the next day or two after the event. That’s when the National Weather Service comes out and surveys damage.

If damage is all pointed in the same direction, that is when you know the event was a straight line wind event. The wind hits objects at one angle and blows them over.

Notice all the trees are knocked down in the same direction. This characterizes "straight" line winds.
Notice all the trees are knocked down in the same direction. This characterizes "straight" line winds.(NWS)

Tornado damage is more scattered about. If you have trees falling in all different directions, that’s when you know a tornado came through. Tornadoes have wind flow into it versus out like damaging winds. Tornadoes will pick up things and throw them around while straight line winds go direct.

Notice how trees have fallen in all different directions. That indicates the winds were spinning.
Notice how trees have fallen in all different directions. That indicates the winds were spinning.(NWS Huntsville)

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

Latest News