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Ask Josh: SEVERE WEATHER

Here's another type of severe weather that can happen in our area!

It has been a very stormy couple of months in our region!  We've had to deal with flooding, high winds, hail, a lot of lightning and even a few tornado warning's.

There's one form of severe weather that we haven't had so far this season.

One blog reader by the name, Josh Nance in Huntington asks: "What is a Derecho and have we ever had it happen in West Virginia?"

That's a great question, Josh! 

The term derecho is spanish for "straight" and it's a widespread and long-lived, violent straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms in the form of a squall line usually taking the form of a bow echo. Derechos blow in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to a gust front, except that the wind is sustained and generally increases in strength behind the "gust" front.  It's a warm weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially June and July. They can occur at any time of the year and occur as frequently at night as in the daylight hours and yes, we have had a derecho move through our region.  In fact every few years we'll get one that produces widespread damage!

Source: NOAA

Above is titled the 1991 West Virginia derecho.  It was a serial derecho that started in Arkansas in the early morning hours of April 9, 1991 and made its way northeast, finally dying out over Pennsylvania late that evening.

Two people were killed and 145 were injured in the event, mainly from falling trees, flying debris, and mobile homes and trailers being overturned. Most of the destructive damage occurred in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Southern Pennsylvania.

In West Virginia alone, there were 8,000 insurance damage claims for homes and businesses. Over 200,000 people lost power in the derecho. Many people experienced flickering lights and power surges. This derecho was the worst severe weather event for West Virginia since the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974.

Below is a doppler radar image of a derecho moving through up-state New York in July, 1995.

It came through in the middle of the night.  Injuring several and killing one person camping when a tree fell on his tent.

Since derechos occur during warm months and often in places with cold winter climates, people who are most at risk are those involved in outdoor activities. Campers, hikers, and motorists are most at risk because of falling trees toppled over by straight line winds. Most casualties in derechos come from trees falling on cars. People who live in mobile homes are also at risk. Mobile homes that are not anchored to the ground can be overturned from the high winds.

Share your severe weather stories in the comment section below and keep those great questions coming!  Thanks for reading.

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