What’s a derecho, and did we see another one hit our area?

A derecho is a name for a widespread wind storm, but it’s something we became familiar with in 2012

Damage in Christiansburg - George Tipton

ROANOKE, Va. – There are certain weather buzzwords that catch people’s attention. In our area, derecho became one of them after June of 2012.

What’s a Derecho?

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First, what’s a derecho? Taken straight from Your Local Weather Authority’s weather glossary:

Derecho: A widespread storm that produces damaging straight-line winds. Damage must occur consistently, or intermittently along a path length of at least 400 miles and path width of at least 60 miles.

Those of you who were here in 2012 likely remember that derecho very well. That one, in particular, came on a day when our area saw triple-digit heat. That’s why we saw such widespread damage and power outages that lasted days and weeks after the storm.

It’s why I, and many other meteorologists in this area, stray away from carelessly using that word. It triggers bad memories and oftentimes induces anxiety that need not be brought to the forefront.

You may be surprised to find out that, while not common, derechos aren’t as rare as you might think. According to the Storm Prediction Center, derechos happen in our part of the country once every two years.

Derecho frequency according to the Storm Prediction Center

Did we see one Monday night/Tuesday morning?

When looking at the multiple clusters of storms that moved through the Great Lakes, Ohio River Valley and our area Monday into Tuesday morning, we can see that damage did occur intermittently along a path of more than 400 miles and across a width of at least 60 miles.

Summary of wind damage reports from Monday to Tuesday morning

Notice how we’re not left with the same destruction or devastation that the one in 2012 brought. Just like hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, etc., no one derecho is the same as another.


About the Author

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.