Do You Know the Difference Between a Tornado and a Microburst?

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ABC 13 reported that Tuesday night, 75 homes in the Sealy area were destroyed by winds reaching nearly 100 miles per hour. Many people assumed the winds that also damaged businesses and power lines must have been from a tornado, but meteorologists say that the force of nature at hand is called a microburst.

Wet microbursts, ABC 13 Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller explains, are created when cool air quickly flows down from the clouds along with rain, forming strong downdrafts. The wind rushes to land and spreads out when hitting the earth’s surface. The Smithsonian Channel says it’s like turning on a faucet full blast and watching the water splash up around the sink. (Microbursts can also be dry, with strong winds and no rain.)

WMUR- TV reports both microbursts and tornados can have similar wind speeds and sound like a train barreling down from the sky. Since they often cause similar damage, it’s easy to mistake one for another. But the swirling winds of a tornado are very different from the straight line winds of the microburst in that they can devastate a wide area instead of making a pinpointed trail of damage. explains that when a downburst spreads over 2.5 miles, it’s referred to as a macroburst, which can last for a terrifying half hour.