According to FEMA, severe winds can occur anytime, or they can accompany storms like hurricanes, tornados, and severe thunderstorms. Flying debris or downed trees and power lines can make severe winds a threat to lives, property, and utilities.

Damaging Wind Terminology

Straight-line wind is a term used to define any thunderstorm wind that is not associated with rotation, and is used mainly to differentiate from tornadic winds.

derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.

gust front is the leading edge of rain-cooled air that clashes with warmer thunderstorm inflow.

Learn more damaging wind terminology with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Wind Threat Description From the National Weather Service

The “High Wind Hazard Map” depicts the local threat for specified areas based on the adverse affects of increased wind speed.

High Wind Threat Level

Threat Level Descriptions


“An Extreme Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”“Damaging high wind” with sustained speeds greater than 58 mph, or frequent wind gusts greater than 58 mph. Damaging wind conditions are consistent with a high wind warning.    


“A High Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”“High wind” with sustained speeds of 40 to 57 mph. Wind conditions consistent with a high wind warning.


“A Moderate Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”“Very windy” with sustained speeds of 26 to 39 mph, or frequent wind gusts of 35 to 57 mph. Wind conditions consistent with a wind advisory.


“A Low Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”“Windy” conditions. Sustained wind speeds of 21 to 25 mph, or frequent wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph.
Very Low
” A Very Low Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”“Breezy” to “Windy” conditions. Sustained wind speeds around 20 mph, or frequent gusts of 25 to 30 mph.
” No Discernable Threat to Life and Property from High Wind.”The sustain wind speeds are non-threatening; “breezy” conditions may still be present.



Additional Resources

Home Protection in High Winds– FEMA

National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program