How to Measure Wind Damage

Wind damage is caused by any weather system with winds of at least 35 mph. Powerful drafts of wind shoot down from the tops of storms and pummel outwards when they reach the earth’s surface. The sheer velocity of these winds can cause massive amounts of damage to buildings and structures caught in its path. Winds traveling in one direction can spread debris along a lengthy stretch of land, while other types of wind swirl around, creating swaths of chaos in every direction.

In fact, hurricanes and tornadoes are destructive because of the incredible wind speeds these types of storms produce. Thunderstorms, hailstorms, and low-pressure systems also cause massive amounts of wind damage every year by producing downdrafts and microbursts with speeds in excess of 58 mph. After a storm, wind damage is classified as one of the following measurements on the Fujita scale (also known as the F-scale):

  • EF-0) Winds stay below 85 miles per hour, and produce light damage. Roofing shingles, side paneling, and chimney stacks can be damaged. Tree branches sometimes snap, and shallow-rooted trees topple over.
  • EF-1) Winds reach speeds of 86-110 mph, resulting in moderate damage. Roof surfaces are more damaged, flagpoles bent or destroyed, and larger trees can be uprooted. Mobile homes are at risk of being pushed off their foundations and knocked over. Moving vehicles in this type of storm are pushed around.
  • EF-2) Winds of 111-135 mph, classified as considerable damage. At this level, entire roofs are potentially ripped off the frame of the house, while mobile homes are demolished. Parked vehicles caught in this storm are flipped, large trees snapped or uprooted, and objects begin to fly around.
  • EF-3) Winds between 136-165 mph, creating severe damage. Roofs and walls are torn apart from even well-constructed houses, while vehicles are lifted and thrown around. Trains are overturned at this wind speed, and large trees are easily uprooted.
  • EF-4) Winds sustain 16 -200 mph, causing devastating damage. Large buildings are damaged in large sections, well-constructed houses are destroyed, and weaker buildings are reduced to debris. Large, flying projectiles are flung around in these winds.
  • EF-5) Winds peak at over 200 mph, producing incredible damage. Nothing is safe from this level of wind. Reinforced structures are leveled, with nothing left but the foundation. Projectiles as large as several thousand pounds fly effortlessly through the air in excess of 300 feet. Trees are ripped apart, and nearly everything is destroyed.

Amazingly, these numbers only represent what experts predict wind speeds reach for three-second gusts. Unable to measure these speeds with stationary equipment, the values are based on levels of damage observed during and after the storm. The United States has the greatest number of tornadoes of any other country in the world, with more than 1,000 reported each year.

If you find yourself caught in the path of a tornado, take cover immediately, and do not leave your home. Although the actual wind speeds may be calculated using educated predictions, the damage sustained from these storms is very real.


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