A derecho warning is being issued for the East Coast as a powerful line of thunderstorms move across a large portion of the United States.
The thunderstorms have cut across the Midwest, leaving a trail of destruction in the way of toppled trees and lightning strikes. Meteorologists say the storms may spawn a weather event known as a derecho, which is a superstorm where straight-line winds can reach up to 240 miles per hour.
In addition to the possibility of derechos, the storm could also cause tornadoes and power outages, followed by oppressive heat, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
Bunting said the chance of severe weather affecting Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Ohio, is 45 times greater today than an average June day.
“It’s a pretty high threat,” Bunting said. “We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.”
Derechos, which have winds of 58 miles per hour or more, typically happen once a year in the Midwest, meteorologists say.
“Strictly speaking, a derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms,” AccuWeather.com noted. “These showers and thunderstorms produce wind damage over a large swath of land.”
Derechos can also occur at the same time as tornadoes, meteorologists note, bringing effects that are often more deadly and destructive than typical storms.
Last year, a derecho that struck a line from Chicago to Washington caused $1 billion damage as well as 13 deaths. The storm brought 100 mile per hour winds, causing power outages that claimed 34 additional lives from heat-related issues.
Meteorologists say the derecho expected to strike on Wednesday would not be as powerful as last year’s storm but still warned anyone in its path to exercise caution. Derechos can move extremely quickly, they note.
(Derecho image via Accuweather.com)