How thunderstorms can spawn damaging ‘downbursts’

These powerful winds slam into the ground, causing damage that rivals a weak tornado

photo of a downburst near Burlington, Colo.

Downbursts (one shown near Burlington, Colo.) cause strong, potentially damaging winds that blow in with little or no warning. Any area that gets thunderstorms can experience these lesser-known products of severe storms.

John Finney photography/Moment/Getty Images Plus

In July, a fierce thunderstorm raged through Washington, D.C., damaging homes, felling trees, producing blinding rain and leaving thousands without power.