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Derecho: The Uncommon Weather Term

By Aaron Tanner

· derecho,weather,vocabulary,interest,thunderstorm

One of my interests I am passionate about is the weather. I remember watching The Weather Channel non-stop as a kid to the point my mom sometimes would tell me to do something else.

What prevented me from becoming a meteorologist is the trouble I have with Calculus and Physics, which are essential to learning how to forecast the weather. I had the opportunity to intern at a TV station in which I worked behind the scenes during a high impact severe weather event. It gets pretty chaotic, and one must be able to think on their feet.

Most people are familiar with hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards. However, my area may experience a weather event that a lot of the public is unfamiliar with. It is a weather phenomenon called a Derecho.

The word Derecho is a Spanish for “straight.” It is a long-lasting bow-shaped line of severe thunderstorms that carries hurricane-force winds (a typical severe thunderstorm has 60 MPH winds while severe thunderstorms in Derechos can have winds sometimes 80, 90 even 100 MPH) over an area 240 miles or more and the no more than three hours between reports of damaging winds. Although derechos can sometimes have tornadoes, most damage done is by straight-line winds.

Typically, Derechos happen in the late spring and summer along stationary fronts, usually in the Midwestern United States. However, Derechos can hit the Southeast United States if the upper-level weather pattern is just right, such as a High-Pressure system over Texas, and can sometimes occur in the winter, such as what Florida experienced during the Blizzard of 1993.

German chemist Gustavus Detlef Hinchris coined the term Derecho in the late 1800's to describe a severe thunderstorm that hit his home in Iowa. The reason the word the public is unfamiliar with the word is that the term fell out of style for nearly 100 years. Although the name became commonplace in the weather community in the 1980's, the word Derecho entered the mainstream vocabulary in June of 2012 after one hit Washington D.C., which has a more massive media presence than areas that typically get hit by one.

Widespread power outages and downed trees often accompany Derechos. Most people who are injured or killed in these types of events are usually outside camping, hiking or on the water since they often occur during the warmer months when people are more likely to be outside.

It is too early to say my area will get hit by one tonight. For those who were unfamiliar with the word Derecho, you now have a fresh new word to use at a party.

Stay safe everyone across the South tonight and thank you for enduring my little professor syndrome. Comment in the section below if you heard of the term before tonight.

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