WEST VIRGINIA (WVNS) — West Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week is March 14th – 18th, 2022 and your Stormtracker 59 Team is ready with severe weather topics all this week to help you stay safe this storm season. On Monday, the team is talking about Wild Winds.

Most folks think of tornadoes when they hear severe weather but in West Virginia, it’s not the only destructive aspect of severe winds we face.

Tornado safety and where to shelter

A tornado is a vortex of violently spinning winds capable of extreme damage. Tornadoes are graded on the Enhanced Fujita scale or EF scale. An EF 0 is a small tornado with 65-85mph whereas an EF 5 can exceed 200mph winds.

The formation of a tornado occurs under just the right conditions of clashing dry cooler air with humid and warm air, upper-level atmospheric winds, and lift. This is why tornadoes are rare in nature compared to other forms of severe weather for West Virginia.

For West Virginia, we’re more likely to run into what is called straight-line winds than tornadic or rotational winds. Straight-line winds are often associated with a line of storms and can move across large distances. Unlike tornadoes with small footprints less than a mile or so wide, straight-line winds can extend out miles long and miles wide. In terms of damage in our region, straight-line winds can cause far more damage than a twister.

How can you tell the difference between what was a tornado or what was just straight-line wind? When you look at the damage with tornado damage, it’s scattered in all different directions due to the rotation of the tornado. Meanwhile, with straight-line wind damage, it all falls down in the same direction because that’s the way the wind was moving. And that’s how the National Weather Service can tell whether or not you had a tornado come through your backyard.

Telling the Difference: Tornado or Straight Line Winds

As West Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week continues, be sure to make plans this storm season to account for straight-line winds as well as tornadoes. Treating both with the same level of urgency could be the difference between keeping you safe before or suffering after the storm.