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Tornado or Straight Line Wind Damage in Monroe County, TN?

The following report is from WKRK Chief Meteorologist Jennifer Narramore

Straight Line Winds

Thursday night reports started coming out from Monroe County, TN (just north of Cherokee County, NC) of damage near Madisonville and a possible tornado.  The speculation of a tornado was based on the damage.  Radar signatures that night didn’t suggest a tornado and we had no spotter reports.  A Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been out for that area.

The National Weather Service in Morristown investigated the area of damage on Friday and found evidence of straight line wind damage.  Peak winds were estimated to be 110mph!  Numerous soft wood tree trunks were snapped/uprooted.  Trees fell on several homes causing roof damage.   Most of the trees that were downed were facing the same direction which was North-Northeast.  Here is the full survey:  Link

What are straight line winds?  These are winds that come straight out of a thunderstorm.  When a severe thunderstorm warning is issued and we talk about winds could exceed 70 mph, we are talking straight line winds.  The winds are produced by the downward momentum in the downdraft of a thunderstorm.  The stronger the thunderstorm cell, the stronger the potential winds.  And usually the atmosphere we are in that is creating these type of storms can also produce large hail and can quickly produce a tornado.

When a survey team goes to investigate whether damage is caused by a tornado or straight line winds, they analyze the debris.  Straight line wind damage will push debris in the same direction (in this case, the trees were all facing NNE).  Tornado damage will scatters debris in a variety of directions.

What you need to know:  The important thing I hope you will all take away from this is that straight line winds can be as dangerous as a tornado.  The winds in this event were estimated at 110mph.  That is equivalent to an EF1 tornado.  Straight line winds do cause damage, quickly toppling trees and power lines, and tearing up sheds and barns.

It is just as important to be in  a safe place in your home and business during a wind event as it is during a tornado.  A lot of times when talking about a severe thunderstorm warning, I will try to mention the wind speeds and if I have heard of any reports of damage with the cell/line coming through.  If there has been a history of damage, assume that more damage could occur.

As always, we will be with you LIVE on WKRK for each Severe thunderstorm warning and tornado warning for our area.  And real time updates are on our weather page at  This way when a warning comes out for your area, you can grab your mobile device and get in your safe spot and get further updates on what is happening.  Stay safe!

– Jennifer

An example of downburst damages in a straight line. (Source NOAA)

An example of downburst damages in a straight line. (Source NOAA)

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Posted in Regional News, TN-Monroe County

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