SEVERE WEATHER: Tornado or straight line winds?

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 @ 1:42 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2019 @ 4:42 AM

Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini explains the difference between the two.

Straight-line wind can be dangerous during severe weather season, and we have seen a fair share of straight-line wind events here in the Miami Valley, said Stormcenter7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini.

It can be difficult at times to determine the difference between the two simply by looking at damage. 

A quick survey of debris left behind after a severe weather event is one of the first indicators of what occurred—a tornado or a straight-line wind event, Zontini said. 

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For example, if trees are snapped in random directions, a tornado likely caused the damage, she explained. However, if trees are knocked over in one direction, it’s likely the damage was caused by straight line winds.

Another indicator of a tornado is debris stuck up in trees. In a straight-line wind event, debris typically stays at ground level, Zontini said. 

Determination between the two usually requires a combination of National Weather Service surveys, looking back at radar and collecting eyewitness reports.  

It is important to remember that thunderstorms can cause straight-line winds as powerful as tornadoes. Make sure if a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued for your area that you do NOT ignore it. Get inside immediately and seek shelter in an interior room away from windows.