Is a Derecho Going to Hit Virginia? (And What's a Derecho, Anyway?)

Whatever you want to call it, a storm's on the way.

A deadly storm last year that claimed the lives of three Virginians, caused widespread power outages and tore up trees wasn't just a strong thunderstorm. Northern Virginia owes its awe to a specific sort of destruction-causing storm, a derecho.

A what?

The meteoroligical term is new to many of us, but here's the short definition: It's bad. 

And whether a derecho blows across and winds could cause power outages, heavy hail and flooding in the region as Thursday grinds on.

But what is a derecho, anyway? A derecho is a long-lived, widespread windstorm that can produce damage similar to that seen in the aftermath of a tornado, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The windstorm comes with a fast-moving band of thunderstorms and often causes damage in a wide, straight path. 

The derecho that hit Virginia last year originated in the Chicago area and raced east towards Washington DC. It left a large path of destruction in its wake. The National Weather Service compiled a list of over 800 weather damage reports from this storm.

The storm had wind gusts clocked at 91 mph at Fort Wayne Internation Airport in Indiana, 64 mph in Atlantic City, NJ, and 71 mph at Dulles International Airport. 

Derechos have produced even stronger wind gusts. A May 1998 derecho created a 128 mph wind gust in eastern Wisconsin, according to NOAA.

These storms occur once every 3-4 years in our area. They are more common in the late spring and summer.


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