Damage blamed on straight-line winds

Published 10:52 am Thursday, June 28, 2018

AHOSKIE – Property damage from Sunday evening’s severe weather in Ahoskie was not caused by a tornado.

After studying photos and damage maps submitted by Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith, the National Weather Service Office in Wakefield, VA has determined that straight-line winds are to blame for the damage.

“It looks like from the [submitted] pictures and from our radar analysis that the severe weather on Sunday evening was from straight-line winds,” stated Michael Dutter, Science Operations Officer at NWS – Wakefield, in a Wednesday email sent to Smith.

Judging from the damage left in the wake of the storm, Dutter estimated the wind speeds at between 70-to-80 mph.

“The event itself looks like it took place between 9:15 pm and 9:20 pm Sunday evening,” Dutter stated in the email.

He added that the NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Hertford County at 9 pm.

According to the National Weather Service website, straight-line wind is generated out of a thunderstorm. If these winds meet or exceed 58 miles per hours then the storm is classified as severe by the National Weather Service. These winds are produced by the downward momentum in the downdraft region of a thunderstorm.

When the National Weather Service does a storm damage survey they distinguish between straight-line wind and wind produced from a tornado. Straight-line wind damage will push debris in the same direction the wind is blowing (hence the creation of the term straight-line). Tornado damage will scatter the debris in a variety of different directions since the winds of a tornado are rotating violently. This type of survey can be used to determine if straight-line wind occurred instead of a tornado or vice versa.

Straight-line wind intensity can be as powerful as a tornado. Because of this some people in the general public will believe a tornado occurred when it reality one did not occur.

Following Sunday’s storm, Smith said he performed a survey of the impacted areas, and repeated that effort when daylight rolled around Monday morning.

“The storm has a distinguishable path, basically from NC 11 to the Ahoskie-Cofield Road, but it does not appear to have left any signs of a twisting action,” Smith said in a story published in Tuesday’s edition of the R-C News-Herald. “However, there are a high number of trees down along one particular path.”

The majority of the local damage was inflicted by downed tress and limbs.

A tree fell on a power line, resulting in the power pole falling on the roof of a home on North Mitchell Street.

There was a house fire on Hill Street shortly after the storm passed by. The fire, electrical in nature, was contained to underneath the home.

The visitor’s dugout at the Hertford County High School softball field was destroyed, while a fallen tree smashed the scoreboard at the football field.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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