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EXPLAINED: We’ll see 2 types of wind during the storm Friday night, and they’ll have very different effects

Image from Associated Press Graphics Bank
Image from Associated Press Graphics Bank (AP Graphics Bank)

HOUSTON – The two major wind effects this storm will bring are tornadoes and downbursts, or straight-line winds.

For tornadoes to form, the wind is required to blow in different directions. Ahead of the storm, we’ll have southeast and southwest winds and you can add in northwest winds. Those are enough to create different wind directions at different levels of the atmosphere for those twisting winds to become tornadic.

If a strong thunderstorm forms ahead of the front, those can become supercells with stronger EF2 tornadoes —think of those as individual spinning tops with nothing to stop them.

Tornadoes along the front are usually weaker but can still produce 100 mph winds.

As the front moves through, warm air is quickly lifted as an updraft into the storms and just as quickly can become a downdraft. With very cold air in the upper atmosphere (it is January after all), the cold air can accelerate even faster as it moves towards Earth. These are downburst winds that can reach up to 100 mph.

Think of a garden hose that you point directly at the concrete patio — all the water goes in different directions. So do these downburst winds and they can move in a straight line, knocking down anything in their way.

Finally, the front itself will move at 30 mph and gusty winds out of thunderstorms can reach 60 mph pretty easily. That is enough to produce fence and roof damage.

To prepare for what’s to come, you should secure your home and move stuff from around it inside, like garbage cans, bikes, and anything that wind could pick up and make a missile.