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ON THIS DAY: The derecho of 2012

Widespread wind storm produced widespread wind damage nine years ago

Credit: US National Weather Service Blacksburg VA
Credit: US National Weather Service Blacksburg VA

ROANOKE, Va. – It was a weather event that changed the way many of us view weather in this area - the derecho of 2012.

A derecho is a widespread windstorm that produces damage on a path length of at least 400 miles and a path width of at least 60 miles, according to the American Meteorological Society.

The definition of a derecho

The one that impacted our region in 2012 traveled a distance of 700 miles, from parts of Illinois to the Delmarva Peninsula. It left more than 4 million people without power in the process. Some of us without power for weeks!

As it moved through our region, it produced damage in every county that WSLS serves. Chief Meteorologist Jeff Haniewich reflected on this horrible storm on its five-year anniversary. Peak wind gusts in Roanoke and White Sulphur Springs were between 80 and 90 mph, which is similar to an EF1 tornado. That’s also the equivalent of the sustained wind in the center of a Category 1 hurricane.

Fortunately, these kinds of storms are fairly uncommon for us. According to the Storm Prediction Center, derechos happen once every two years in our region on average.

Frequency of a derecho in the Eastern U.S.

Not all derechos are created equal, and not all of them produce the extent of damage that we saw on this day nine years ago. The one on June 29, 2012 is the benchmark for our area.

Part of what made this storm so incredibly strong was the fairly widespread 100 degree heat earlier in the day. For many in our region, we haven’t been in the triple digits since this time in 2012.

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