Skip to Content

Tornado versus straight-line wind damage

(WQOW) - When severe weather strikes, both tornadoes and straight-line winds can cause a lot of damage, but there is a difference between the two.

Unlike a tornado, which rotates, straight-line winds from a severe thunderstorm fan out in one direction and typically affect a larger area.

National Weather Service meteorologists say when they conduct damage surveys to assess severe weather, they look at the pattern of damage, in addition to other factors like radar data.

"If we see a bunch of trees in a neighborhood that are knocked down in all the same direction, or if they're spreading out slightly, we usually consider that straight-line wind damage," said Meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein. "If we were to go and see a couple trees pointing toward a central point, that's when we would say 'Okay, maybe we have a tornado here.'"

Despite the differences, meteorologists say damage from straight-line winds can sometimes rival an EF-0 or EF-1, meaning winds can pick up debris and trees can fall. This is one of the reasons why they say it is important to seek shelter for both tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms.

Jess Langlois

Jess Langlois is the weekend meteorologist and weekday multi-media journalist for News 18. She joined us in July of 2019.

Skip to content