TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Thursday’s cold front will bring a chance for strong to severe storms. The overall threat is a level 2 out of 5 for most of the Tampa Bay area. There is a very low threat for some brief flooding, a low threat for an isolated tornado and a low to moderate threat for small hail.
Along with those hazards, there is a moderate threat for strong to severe wind gusts. Although the threat for tornadoes is low, it is important to know that strong to severe wind gusts can do just as much damage as a weak tornado.
Winds are considered severe above 58 mph in a severe storm. An EF-0 tornado has winds between 40 and 72 mph. The damage they can cause are very similar and include downed branches, small trees and street signs.
The main difference is that severe winds can occur over a much larger spatial area while the damage from a tornado is quite localized.
The reason we have the chance for severe wind gusts Thursday is because the winds just above the surface, so at the cloud level, are very strong. The cloud level wind speeds are reaching 60 to 90 mph.
Storms that build taller have a stronger downdraft, or winds that are traveling down toward the ground inside a storm that bring the rain and wind to the ground.
Every once in a while, the downdraft can take some of those stronger winds from the cloud level and bring them to the ground, causing a brief surge of severe winds and cause damage.