Sunday Story: Downbursts

I hope you all had a chance to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing last night. What a milestone in our world’s history!

As for your weather forecast, look for a similar day to yesterday. I think we’ll see even more showers and storms around though, so keep that in mind. I would discourage any outdoor plans today and tomorrow.

The cold front swings through tomorrow and cooler, drier air will move in for the rest of the week. Highs on Tuesday and Wednesday will be in the 70s! Lows for several nights next week will dip into the 50s.

The Fentress and Overton county papers are planning to print my Kennedy Space Center story in their papers this week. That means I would be able to then share that story here next Sunday. Stay tuned!

I’ll be sharing my story with the STEM middle school students at Roane State on Tuesday morning, and then again with the Crossville Noon Rotary Club on Thursday.

I want to take a moment here and wish Bruce and Susie Smith a very happy 50th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful celebration at the parsonage at church yesterday. Their anniversary was the 19th and I realized while we were celebrating that they got married the day before man landed on the moon. What a cool way to start your marriage! ha

You all have a great Sunday and I hope you enjoy this week’s Sunday Story!


It has been 25 years since a plane has crashed in the U.S. due to a downburst. This is a milestone we should be very thankful for.

All storms have some degree of a downburst that occurs with the momentum of its rainfall falling from the cloud. That falling rain literally pulls the air downward. That wind then spreads out along the ground. You’ve probably felt this gust of wind just before a storm moved in. Most downbursts are harmless, but sometimes those winds become damaging.

Downbursts are a danger for planes because the winds push the plane toward the ground. Meanwhile, winds shifting in different directions (i.e. wind shear) also wreak havoc with the pilot’s ability to control the plane. This often results in a loss of control and to an ultimate crash of the aircraft.

The last aviation disaster related to a downburst in the U.S. occurred in July of 1994 in North Carolina. US Airways Flight 1016 crashed at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The crash killed 37 of the 57 passengers and crew on board. 

In total, nearly 500 people have been killed in plane crashes in the U.S. due to downbursts. 

One of the factors that ended this aviation threat was the invention of the Doppler radar. That radar allows us to “see” the wind inside a storm. Before Doppler, we could only detect precipitation with radar.

One of the greatest assets to a pilot today is the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS). This is a system that uses Doppler radar to detect downbursts and gust fronts. It then alerts the pilots of the danger, allowing them to avoid the threat area.

Thanks to better technology and improved pilot training, downbursts are no longer a concern for fliers. That’s one less thing to worry about when flying! 

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