DENVER (CBS4) – It’s severe weather awareness week in Colorado, and while one might immediately think tornado, there are two others acts of nature that can be just as dangerous; straight line winds and hail.
Straight line winds are usually caused by an area of air within the thunderstorm that is rapidly cooled by precipitation or the evaporation of precipitation.
Because the cooled air is heavier than its surrounding, it accelerates downward. When the air slams into the ground, it spreads out, sometimes at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
If these winds are less than 2.5 miles across, they are called microbursts. If they are larger, they’re called macrobursts.
These severe winds can cause extensive damage, injuries and even death. They are extremely dangerous to aviation.
Hail is another big threat in Colorado. In fact, the Front Range of the Rockies has one of the highest frequency of hail days in the United States.
Hail forms as liquid water freezes inside the cold middle and upper portions of the cloud. Strong updrafts suspend the hailstones inside the cloud, moving them up and down within the wind currents. (Like the motion of juggling.)
With each trip, the stones grow larger and larger, until their weight overcomes the strength of the updraft and they fall to the ground below.
Hailstones can cause tremendous damage to houses, vehicles and crops. Hail can also be life threatening to both humans and animals.