Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Derecho or not, last week's storms were nasty

A long-lived outbreak of violent thunderstorms that left millions of people without power last June in the mid-Atlantic introduced the term "derecho" to many people in the United States.

Then came another round of damaging storms last week -- affecting the Charlotte region, along with other parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic -- and the "derecho" word is back again.

I've seen some debate in recent days over whether the line of severe thunderstorms that roared across the region last Thursday was actually a derecho.  I don't think there's an official definition for the word, so the debate will continue.

But if we assume a derecho is an hours-long event in which a line or cluster of thunderstorms pushes for hundreds of miles, then our outbreak last week fits the description.

About 200,000 customers in North Carolina lost power in the storms. Some residents of Stanly County didn't get electricity back until Sunday, nearly three full days after hundreds of trees were blown onto roads, homes and power lines.

I got a taste of it.  Our home in Matthews was without power for about 20 hours -- long enough to spoil the food in the refrigerator.

Those storms were a reminder of how many people become fixated on meteorological terminology, rather than dealing with reality.

In hurricane season, some people worry about the location of landfall and the top sustained winds of a system.  They don't concern themselves about the dangers presented by a hurricane or tropical storm after it moves inland.  I've written many times about the problems presented by a dying storm -- the flash flooding, the tornadoes.

It's the same thing with thunderstorms.  Many people worry about tornadoes, dismissing severe thunderstorms as a weak cousin.  But as I've written before, those severe storms can carry winds of up to 100 mph and are capable of causing extensive damage.

Anyways, I pass along links to a couple of things worth looking at.

The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang is a nice website, although it (understandably) focuses on the mid-Atlantic.  Kathryn Prociv wrote an interesting piece, comparing the 2012 derecho with last week's event.
In that article, she reaches the conclusion that the 2013 event was bigger but not as strong.

And I add a link from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, showing the progress and damage reports from last week's storms.

It'll give you a healthy respect for the power of severe thunderstorms.


Anonymous said...

Whatever you want to call last week's storms, I got sick of them really really fast. The heavy rain literally flattened grass. The pea-size hail was a nuisance, and the high winds were downright dangerous. My house is surrounded by old old trees, maples, poplars, oaks, pines, you name it. I watched tall pines sway what looked to be six feet from vertical. The wind whipped through the thicker leaved hardwoods, breaking limbs off or snapping them but leaving them hanging. The aftermath was simply a mess. I don't mind the rain so much, but can do without all the other crap.

Soccer Coach Steve said...

Ed Clark! Are you here Ed Clark? Where is you Ed Clark?