Uprooted tree that fell across a sidewalk

Pay attention to straight line winds

How to stay safe from these winds that can severely damage homes, landscapes and people.

Severe thunderstorms can create straight line winds in excess of 58 mph. These winds can pack a major punch, uprooting trees and knocking down power lines. Learn more about damaging straight line winds and how to stay safe.

What are straight line winds?

Straight line winds can come in many forms. Two common types are:

  • Downburst: A strong downward current that bursts outward on or near the ground. Wind speeds can exceed 165 mph.
  • Derecho: A system of merged thunderstorms up to 65 miles wide that travels in a straight line, causing wind damage across an area of at least 240 miles. Wind speeds can top 100 mph.

Straight line winds can cause the same level of damage as tornadoes, but they lack the atmospheric rotation to form a funnel. The aftermath will show the difference: If downed trees and other kinds of debris are in parallel rows, that signifies straight line winds. Tornado damage is more sporadic.

How to stay safe from straight line winds

Straight line wind safety resembles tornado safety. Keep these tips in mind the next time your area has a severe thunderstorm warning:

  • Find shelter immediately — or crouch down in the lowest spot you can find.
  • Bring in or secure anything that's loose outside, such as lawn furniture, toys and bicycles.
  • Stay away from trees and power lines.
  • Go to the lowest level of your home and stay away from windows.
  • If you're driving, pull over to a safe area with your vehicle in the direction of the wind.

Visit Simple Insights® for more information about different types of bad weather.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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