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Details about damaging winds & downbursts

Severe Storms Awareness Week in Maryland!
Posted at 6:52 AM, Apr 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-11 07:03:12-04

This week is Severe Storms Awareness Week in Maryland and we are highlighting aspects of severe storms each day this week! Today, we are diving into damaging winds and downbursts.

Did you know that a storm's damaging winds can cause more destruction to homes, buildings, and trees compared to rain, thunder or lightning?! Damaging winds are also the champion of creating power outages. When a storm becomes severe and is warned by the National Weather Service, damaging winds will occur somewhere in the warning area (polygon) within the hour. If you are located in the severe thunderstorm warning area, make sure you seek shelter immediately! Make sure you have a way to receive weather alerts on your mobile device!

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I'm sure many of you have heard of a "downburst". Think of it like a big "punch" of wind! You have a potent thunderstorm with a sturdy column of rising air. As cold air filters into the center of the thunderstorm, the updraft begins to weaken, since cold air is more dense than warm air. A strong area of downward moving air rushes towards the surface. Once the large batch of air makes it to the surface, it is forced to spread out in all different directions...this is known as a downburst. Downbursts are also known for creating straight-line winds" which can be just as threatening as tornadoes. Straight-line winds can cause significant damage from 1-250 miles from the center of the downburst. A downburst can lead to more widespread damage, whereas weak tornadoes impact a smaller/local area. There are two types of downbursts: microbursts & macrobursts:


A "microburst" is a downburst that spans 2.5 miles wide or less.


A "macroburst" is a downburst that spans larger than 2.5 miles wide.


Here are images of destruction from a microburst on July 2022 in Baltimore county:


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