WACO, Texas – National Preparedness Month continues, and the National Weather Service is making sure you know what to do when faced with extreme winds.
Central Texans are no strangers to strong winds. From strong thunderstorms to tornadoes, the region has seen it all – but what actually causes the gust winds?
“Above us, for a few thousand feet we have really, really dry air. And above that, we have a layer of clouds that are saturated and full of rain. So what happens first is the rain from that cloud layer will fall down into that dry layer, and then some of that rain will evaporate and cool the air. Then the colder air will rush down to the ground and spread out when it hits the surface, and that creates the gusty winds,” says Allison Prater, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Strong wind gusts don’t have to be associated with a severe storm at all.
“In the environment, when cold air rushes back down to the ground, even rain showers can produce wind over 40 mph,” says Prater.
Straight line winds, which are different from tornadic winds, can also cause a lot of damage.
“They can exceed over 100 mph and can affect large areas. They can knock over semi-trucks, trees and power lines,” says Prater.
For reference, you can find 100 mph winds in a Category 2 hurricane or an EF-1 tornado.
These kinds of winds can be dangerous if you’re caught unaware, but there are ways to stay safe during these wind events.
“You need to stay clear of any hazards from above. Stay clear of trees. Stay clear of loose outdoor items. If you know that you are about to experience those gusty winds or strong winds, you need to head inside immediately. If you’re driving, you need to be careful and keep your distance from other vehicles, and you need to have both hands on the steering wheel and slow down,” says Prater.