Author: Mary Knapp

Although tornadoes get a lot of attention, thunderstorm winds typically are more frequent, and cause more damage. A major factor is that thunderstorms are generally more widespread and frequent than tornadoes. Because of this, property and crop damage can be more severe over a season. The most commonly encountered type of damaging wind in a thunderstorm is a straight line wind associated with the leading edge of the rain cooled outflow, known as the gust front. Although most thunderstorm outflow winds range from 30 to 50 mph, on occasion these winds can exceed 100 mph. Another major type of damaging wind is a “downburst”. Caused by winds flowing rapidly down and out of a thunderstorm, downburst producing storms often give little advance indications of the danger on weather radar or to the spotter, so warnings are difficult to issue.

Fringe of a downburst near Wichita Falls, Texas, May 24, 1994. NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library