The Derecho

Roots from trees down

tree down on house

A derecho (pronounced similar to “deh-REY-cho” in English[…]) is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. Although a derecho can produce destruction similar to that of tornadoes, the damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath. As a result, the term “straight-line wind damage” sometimes is used to describe derecho damage. By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho.

– NOAA-NWS-NCEP Storm Prediction Center’s “About Derechos” webpage

Last Friday, as the girls and I recovered from what the doctors thought was strep and Keith and I hovered over Aria, whose illness had progressed to something resembling scarlet fever (tests came back negative yesterday, delayed by the storm, so we’re not exactly sure what it was), a derecho hit the DC metro area, beginning as a lightning storm and erupting suddenly into 70-80 mph winds accompanied by torrential rain. After falling asleep with my sick little girls, I awoke to a loud boom from a transformer blowing out and looked out the window to see the trees outside bent from the strong winds and the cell tower a few blocks away being struck by lightning. Our power and internet service shut down and we made several attempts to call my sister so she could check our area for tornado warnings; we briefly reached her (no tornado warnings, but a severe thunderstorm warning) before our cell service died too.

The next day we awoke to reports (Keith was later able to get radio on his phone) of many downed trees and the loss of power widespread, with over a million people affected. Keith and the girls went in search of gas for the car and sat in a line that wrapped around the block for almost an hour. The price of the gas rose $0.50/gal before he reached the pump.

Later that day, as the temperatures climbed close to 100 degrees F and our apartment got stuffy, we left in search of air conditioning for our sick little ones – on antibiotics almost 24hrs at that point – and a few supplies. What we observed that day and in the days that have followed was shocking. The damage documented here is but a sampling of what we’ve witnessed; images such as these are common in the area and while our power came back on later that day, many in our area are still without it. The cleanup is ongoing with streets still blocked, power lines still down and so much beautiful wood lining the streets waiting for pickup.

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Cut wood from fallen trees at park

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