Storm Watch: Derecho Storms Ravage the Midwest

On the Monday of August 10, 2020, a vicious group of storms ripped through a half-dozen states in the Plains and the Midwest with winds over 100 mph. Hundreds of residents in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois were left with no power the next morning. These terrifying storms were classified as a derecho after The National Weather Service logged over 700 severe weather reports in one day. 

What are Derecho Storms?

Normal thunderstorms form after a repeated cycle of warm air rising from the ground and cool air falling. When a strong gust of downwind hits the earth before the storm begins, it’s known as a bow echo. Derechos form when a series of downwinds blow across 250 miles of land or more at a speed of at least 58 mph. 

Derechos have the strength and speed of tornados, and the storm water can cause flooding similar to a hurricane. The biggest difference between derechos and tornadoes is that derecho winds blow in a straight wall, while tornado winds are twisted and swirling.

Although derechos can occur anywhere in the world, they’re very commonly seen in central and eastern parts of the United States. Kentucky was impacted by a ‘super derecho’ in 2009, with winds as fast as 106 mph. 

How Destructive Can They be?

Derecho storms damage everything they come into contact with. The strong walls of wind can pull roofs off of some buildings and cause serious structural damage to others. They’re also known to cause widespread power outages by knocking poles down. The pressure and destruction can cause gas leaks, and they can wipe out entire fields of crops in the midwest. About one third of Iowa’s corn crop was impacted by the most recent derecho and it’s too late in the year for farmers to replant, which will lead to severe agricultural losses. 

Big cities aren’t safe from derechos either. The Chicago metropolitan area suffered such extreme electrical damage that some places will have to be completely rebuilt. Countless buildings, both commercial and residential, sustained detrimental roof and structural damage. 

On top of that, the typical damage risks from thunderstorms are heightened in derecho storms. Water is blown at higher speeds than normal thunderstorms, and lightning can be just as dangerous. Derecho storms are vicious and widespread, and they pose serious and unique threats to the communities they hit.

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