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.