WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Residents of Wichita Falls continue to question the cause of the extensive damage to local businesses after a severe thunderstorm passed through the area on Thursday night, August 10, 2023.
Following the storm, many local residents posted on various social media outlets and reported seeing a tornado during Thursday night’s thunderstorm, leading many to believe a tornado touched down briefly in Wichita Falls.
However, despite heavy damage to businesses and residences in Wichita Falls, a different weather event is to blame for the destruction.
According to KFDX and KJTL Chief Meteorologist Michael Bohling, the extensive damage in and around Wichita Falls resulting from the severe storms Thursday night was not caused by a tornado, but rather a weather phenomenon known as a downburst.
KFDX and KJTL Morning Meteorologist Brian James said a downburst occurs in a small area within a thunderstorm where air naturally comes out of the storm. A downburst happens when that air rapidly falls to the ground and spreads out in different directions.
“Those winds can be anywhere between 60 and 100 miles per hour, usually over a small area,” James said. “The air accelerates once it hits the ground. “
James said the low relative humidity in Wichita Falls likely was a factor in Thursday night’s downburst. He said dry air that sits underneath a thunderstorm can cause the air in a downburst to thicken and grow denser, and the heavier air falls to the ground faster, creating stronger winds when the downburst spreads in several directions.
According to the National Weather Service, a downburst can cause damage similar to that of an EF0 or EF1 tornado and is often misinterpreted as a tornado. From a distance, a downburst can even look similar to a tornado, as seen in the image from the National Weather Service above.
“It may look like a tornado, but it’s very much straight-line winds and not a rotating scenario,” James said.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.