What Does Gale Force Winds Mean?

Wind is considered gale force when it reaches speeds between 39 and 54 miles per hour. Winds are categorized by their intensity according to descriptions found on the Beaufort scale, devised in the 19th century by Sir Francis Beaufort.

  1. The Beaufort Scale

    • The Beaufort scale divides wind into 13 categories or forces based on speed, description and affect on the water. Calm wind has a force of zero on the Beaufort scale, moves about 1 mile per hour and produces no visible effects on the water. A hurricane has a force of 12 on the Beaufort scale, speeds in excess of 74 miles per hour and fills the air with sea spray, seriously degrading visibility.

    Types

    • The Beaufort scale divides gale force winds into near gales and strong gales. A near gale has a force of eight on the Beaufort scale and a speed between 40 and 46 miles per hour. A strong gale has a force of nine on the Beaufort scale and a speed between 47 and 54 miles per hour.

    Considerations

    • High waves with crests that break into spindrift indicate a near gale force wind. A strong gale is indicated by large waves that crest and roll over with thick streaks of foam that move in the direction of the wind.

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