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What are Damaging Winds?

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

It’s rather incredible to think about the damages that can be caused by, well - air. Add speed and direction to air and wind is born. It is pretty standard knowledge, but at what point does wind become damaging? When should we worry about wind causing damage to people or property? Although often the culprits, it doesn’t always have to be a tornado or hurricane wreaking wind havoc, especially on your property. Strong winds can develop just about anywhere, and the U.S. experiences thousands of tornadoes and hurricanes every year.

What are the types of damaging winds?

Winds are considered damaging after they’ve exceeded 50 – 60 miles per hour and are often called “straight-line” winds to distinguish them from tornado winds. Straight-line winds develop from a thunderstorm but do not form in a rotation as you find in a tornado or cyclone. Some of the most common types of damaging winds include:

Straight-line winds: Winds categorized without a rotation.

Tornado: Turbulent rotating column of air with destructive winds speeds up to 300 mph.

Cyclone & Hurricane: Rapidly rotating formations over tropical waters with a center of low-pressure capable of producing strong winds and spiraling bands of thunderstorms.

Downdraft: Rapidly sinking small-scale column of cooler, dense air that spreads to the ground.

Downburst: Intense downdraft of air from a thunderstorm that can be as damaging as a tornado and exceed 100 miles per hour.

Macroburst: When a strong downdraft reaches the surface, it can burst outward wind horizontally and spread to a wider area producing similar damage as a tornado.

Microburst: These are more concentrated, smaller, and short-lived downbursts that reach the surface that can still often exceed 100 miles per hour.

Gust Front: A line or edge of dangerously gusty winds moving along the surface that is caused when thunderstorm-cooled air meets warmer, humid surface air.

Dust Devil: Swirling vortex of dust created by light breezes that look similar to a tornado but are typically weak, and rarely over 70 mph.

Derecho: A band of severe thunderstorms can cause straight-line winds over wide areas (typically at least 250 miles wide) creating hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, flash floods, and heavy rains.

Haboob: Thunderstorms produce intense downdrafts to the ground that can form a wall of dust moving along the surface.

Bow Echo: Bands of thunderstorms can produce severe straight-line winds that spread horizontally at the surface, taking on a bowed or curved shape like an archer’s bow.

How much wind can damage a house?

Damaging winds are typically found at speeds of 50 – 60 miles per hour, but light structural damages can often be found at 47 mph. At 47 – 54 miles per hour, winds can cause chimney pots or slates to be blown away. At 55 – 63 mph, structural damage can be more severe, uproot entire trees, and often cause power outages. Winds above 64 mph can cause widespread structural damage including roofs, and windows, as well as severely damage manufactured homes. Brick homes generally can withstand wind speeds up to 186 mph, but brick can still sustain damages from storm flooding, hail, and debris.

What wind speed causes roof damage?

Roof damages can begin around 50 miles per hour. Without missing shingles or noticeable roof leaks, it is not always obvious when damages from high winds occur. Strong winds and gusts can especially damage corners, edges, and the ridge line, and produce a “lift” effect to shingles that damage underlying materials that seal and fix your roof into place.

What types of damages does wind cause?

There are numerous areas of a property that damaging winds can affect, and oftentimes they are not easy to spot. Some of the common areas to check for after a strong storm can include:

  • Roof & Chimney

  • Gutters, Downspouts, & Pipes

  • Windows

  • Seals on Double-Pane Windows

  • Siding or Exterior Paint

  • Trees & Landscaping

  • Fences, Decks & Porches

Why should I contact an insurance claim lawyer?

Often many property owners find they have little trouble filing an insurance claim for their damages. Other times - usually when the stakes are much higher – there is a greater chance for dispute. You should consider contacting a wind damage attorney for help when:

  • You have questions regarding your policy coverages

  • The insurance adjuster’s estimate is lower than expected

  • Damages are extensive and claims are more complex

  • Claims are delayed or denied

Galindo Law understands your rights and options when it comes to property damage, especially when it is caused by a storm. Our team is readily available to offer guidance and legal representation in dealing with hardened insurance companies that deny, delay, or underpay claims.

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