What is a microburst? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

What is a microburst?

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

We told you this morning that much of the damage in Caldwell county from Friday night's storms came from microbursts. What exactly is that?

When a thunderstorm is in the developing stages, it is sucking warm, moist air into the storm. This is called the updraft. As precipitation forms, it cools the air around it. Since cool air is more dense, it sinks. This is the downdraft.

When that cold air hits the ground, it fans out away from the storm.  Winds are strongest at this point.  Nearest to the point where the microburst reaches the ground, speeds of 70 mph or higher are possible.

In certain cases, that downdraft is very strong and it is referred to as a microburst. A microburst affects a relatively small area (less than 2.5 miles).  Larger downbursts are known as macrobursts.

Microbursts are especially dangerous in aviation due to the strong wind shear they create, but they can also produce hurricane force winds that can down trees and damage property.

For more on the damage in Burke and Caldwell counties, click here

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