Friday, July 6, 2012

What the heck is a "derecho"?? (Part 1)

Do you know?  I didn't -- until last week.  According to Wikipedia, a derecho is " a widespread, long-lived,straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.  Generally, derechos are convection-induced  and take on a bow echo form of squall line, forming in an area of divergence in the upper levels of the troposphere, within a region of low-level warm air advection and rich low-level moisture. They travel quickly in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to an outflow boundary (gust front), except that the wind is sustained and increases in strength behind the front, generally exceeding hurricane-force." I highlighted and underlined the last part as emphasis. I feel like saying -- yeah, really?? That was the understatement of the century!! 

Last Friday, June 29, a derecho blew through the DC area around 10 pm.  This was a storm that tore apart our region in less than 30 minutes, with very little warning.  We were among the fortunate -- we "only" lost power for about 54 hours.  Several of our friends didn't get power until last night, so it was a full SEVEN DAYS in this blistering heat without power. 

I'm going to chronicle, in several parts, what happened over the last few days.  It was pretty rough!  I have a new respect for the people who originally settled in this part of the country, before there was refrigeration or air conditioning.  I do not know how they survived -- seriously.

Friday, June 29 -- We were out for some dinner and a bit of late-evening shopping.  We came out of Target in Columbia, MD to see lightning off in the distance.  At first, we thought it was heat lightning, but it was frequent, intense, and getting closer by the minute.  As we drove home, we turned on the radio to hear about a "severe storm" with winds gusting over 80 mph approaching our area.  We drove home quickly, making plans about who would take trash cans in, who'd get the dogs out quickly, and so forth.  We rushed to accomplish those things, and literally within eight minutes of getting home, the storms started.  Huge, HUGE winds; some rain, but not anywhere in proportion to the amount of wind we were getting.  Lights started to flicker and at 10:45 they went out.  This is not an uncommon thing in our neighborhood, and so we always have flashlights at the ready.  We kicked on a battery-powered radio, listened to the weather reports and waited for the storm to blow through.  And really, the worst of the storm was gone in about 45 minutes -- how much damage could it possibly have done, right???  Wrong.

As we listened to the radio, we began hearing the reports of power outages from all over the area -- 60,000, 80,000, 100,000 customers without power -- and the numbers kept rising.  It became clear that we wouldn't be getting power back anytime before bed, and so we all headed off to sleep.  Can't do much else around the house without the electricity.  The house was fairly cool, the sun was already down; we figured we'd be fine until the power came on.


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