Straight line winds as violent as tornadoes

Those who live in tornado alley rightfully fear the destructive power of these powerful weather events. But recent thunderstorms in Madison County, Indiana, demonstrate that straight-line winds can be just as violent.

Powerful thunderstorms rolled through the northeastern suburbs of Indianapolis Thursday afternoon, prompting numerous severe weather warnings. Storm spotters identified one or more funnel clouds in the area, and observers sent images of at least one funnel cloud to local news stations. But the National Weather Service later determined that the storm damage was caused by straight line winds and not rotational behavior.

A survey by the National Weather Service (NWS) later identified a two-mile wide path of destruction that included downed trees and tree limbs. However, the NWS says that the debris maintained a northwest-to-southeast orientation, suggesting that the damage was due to straight line winds and not cyclonic activity.

The mechanisms behind tornadoes and microbursts are active areas of research for meteorologists. And because they exhibit highly localized behavior, designing for such events in a deterministic way remains challenging.

But we’ve known how to design for straight line winds for decades. CPP’s founders and thought leaders have literally helped write the books and building codes that establish best practices for straight line wind design. Hurricanes, among nature’s most powerful and destructive storms, pummel coastal areas with straight line winds whose effects are all too predictable.

We can’t always forecast the weather. But with the right design, we can build structures that will stand up to the most probable scenarios. Contact CPP for your next project and let us show you how our wind engineering services help designers create buildings that are safe, comfortable, and efficient.