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Windstorms in the United States

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Abstract

High winds are one of the nation’s leading damage-producing storm conditions. They do not include winds from tornadoes, winter storms, nor hurricanes, but are strong winds generated by deep low pressure centers, by thunderstorms, or by air flow over mountain ranges. The annual average property and crop losses in the United States from windstorms are $379 million and windstorms during 1959–1997 caused an average of 11 deaths each year. Windstorms range in size from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands square kilometers, being largest in the western United States where 40% of all storms exceed 135,000 km2. In the eastern United States, windstorms occur at a given location, on average, 1.4 times a year, whereas in the western US point averages are 1.9. Midwestern states average between 15 and 20 wind storms annually; states in the east average between 10 and 25 storms per year; and West Coast states average 27–30 storms annually. Storms causing insured property losses >$1 million, labeled catastrophes, during 1952–2006 totaled 176, an annual average of 3.2. Catastrophic windstorm losses were highest in the West and Northwest climate regions, the only form of severe weather in the United States with maximum losses on the West Coast. Most western storms occurred in the winter, a result of Pacific lows, and California has had 31 windstorm catastrophes, more than any other state. The national temporal distribution of catastrophic windstorms during 1952–2006 has a flat trend, but their losses display a distinct upward trend with time, peaking during 1996–2006.

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Correspondence to Stanley A. Changnon.

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Changnon, S.A. Windstorms in the United States. Nat Hazards 59, 1175–1187 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-011-9828-2

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