A windstorm is a storm with high winds or violent gusts but little or no rain. Baltimore is vulnerable to wind damage because of the large number of trees. Trees bring down power lines, disrupt traffic patterns, and damage property when they fall. Economically, a windstorm’s effects are similar to those of a snowstorm. They halt most economic activity for several days. Many people cannot, or choose not, to come to work because they fear long drives or must take care of damage at home. For local governments, debris removal and power restoration can place a strain on budgets.
Maryland is at risk for high wind events. Historically, the City has seen deaths, injuries, and property damage from extreme wind events.
Notable Wind (non-hurricane) Events in Baltimore City:
June 2012- Mid-Atlantic and Mid-west Derecho
July 2011-The Cross Country Derecho
November 2010- Northeast Baltimore Tornado (EF1)
July 1996– Central Baltimore Tornado (F0)
November 1994– East Baltimore & Cadmen Yards Tornadoes (F1)
October 1990- Baltimore City Tornado (F1)
April 1991- The West Virginia Derecho of 1991
November 1989-Mid-Atlantic Low Dewpoint Derecho
Future hourly/daily wind gust events are projected to increase late this century under a changing climate (Cheng, 2011). Wind speeds have risen steadily over the past twenty years and are expected to become more extreme.
Types of wind storms
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can
be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
Scientists are unsure if tornadoes will become stronger or more frequent, but with increased temperatures changing the weather in unexpected ways, the risk is that tornado outbreaks will become more damaging in the future. The lack of certainty in the state of the science does not equate with a lack of risk, since risk is based on possibility. We must prepare for a future that could possibly include increased tornado damage. – C2ES
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. When hurricane storms hit the coast, they can let loose very strong winds, as high as 180 miles per hour. Please visit the Tropical Storms and Hurricanes page for more information about hurricanes in Baltimore.
A derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. Although a derecho can produce destruction similar to that of tornadoes, the damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath.
By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho.
Typically, derecho-producing storm systems move at speeds of 50 mph or greater, and a few have been clocked at 70 mph. Such rapid movement means that darkening skies and other visual cues that serve to alert one to the impending danger (e.g., gust front shelf clouds — see photo right) appear on very short notice.
“The June 2012 derecho was one of the most destructive and deadly fast moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history.” -Capital Weather Gang
Derechos are most common in warm weather conditions, with more than 75% occurring between April and August. Maryland is expected to experience one derecho every four years.