Here in Central Pennsylvania, we do get a few tornados each year, but there is something we get that is a lot more common and can have the same strength as an average tornado.
On average Central PA sees less than 5 tornadoes a year, but what we do get a lot is severe thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms contain heavy winds, rain and hail.
Heavy winds hit the ground and spread out in all directions like water coming out of a faucet and hitting the sink. These winds are called straight line winds. Straight line winds can be very strong and upwards of 100+ mph or stronger than most tornadoes and can last several minutes. Straight line winds often get mistaken for a tornado because they can do the same amount of damage, but straight-line winds blow straight while winds from a tornado are rotating.
Matt Stienbugl, a forecaster from the National Weather Service explains, “There are sometimes that severe thunderstorms can produce much larger areas of damage, more considerable damage than tornadoes. For example, a weak tornado may produce a very confined area of damage, a small locations. Where if you get a squall line of severe thunderstorms”
Straight line winds can blow over trees, trucks, trains, mobile homes and can do substantial damage to houses.