LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Last week, when we talked about the chance for severe weather in the area, we mostly highlighted the threat of damaging winds.

Since we are not strangers to thunderstorms in mid-Michigan, it’s easy and likely that most people heard this and didn’t take it too seriously. But thunderstorms can produce something called straight-line winds, and these winds can be just as destructive as those from a tornado.  

As we know, with tornadoes the wind rotates in a narrow column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm down to the surface.  

Now with straight-line winds, they are any thunderstorm winds that are not associated with rotation.

These winds come from the downdraft of a thunderstorm and blow parallel to the ground. In most cases, the winds can reach up to 60 mph or stronger.

Sometimes, they can get as high as 100 mph. They have more than enough power to produce structural damage and bring down trees and powerlines.

Damage reports from straight-line winds are more common. Last year of the 285 storm reports that we saw, 233 were wind reports and only three were tornadoes.  

So, how can we tell the difference between the damage from straight-line winds and from tornadoes?

It all has to do with the direction in which the debris has fallen. Since the winds in a tornado are rotating, the debris is more likely to be scattered in different directions.

In contrast, straight-line winds will blow debris in the same direction or parallel to one another.  

So, this just goes to show when we talk about severe weather, whether there is the potential for tornadoes, or thunderstorms with damaging winds, both can cause damage, and both should be taken seriously.