Pay Attention to Straight-Line Winds

Pay Attention to Straight-Line Winds

Uprooted tree that fell across a sidewalk

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 they are

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, similar to winds in an EF3 tornado or Category 5 hurricane.
  • 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

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 steer clear of windows.
  • If you're driving, pull over to a safe area with your vehicle in the direction of the wind.


The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under our policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.