In the summer of 2012, I learned a weather term I'd never heard of before. On June 29th that year a howling storm called a 'derecho' swept through South Jersey. It was the kind of storm that had me in bed with a pillow over my head waiting for it to pass.

I just remember being woken up by the whistling winds and the vision of strobe lights flickering outside my bedroom window. The lightening looked like someone was flipping a light switch on and off really fast. But it really was that wind that made me the most nervous. I had never heard anything that nearby and terrifying. It felt like the whole corner of my house was about to be pulled off into the sky. I just put that pillow over my head and hoped I'd wake up with a roof still over my head.

Reviewing the Storm Path of the 2012 South Jersey Derecho

With daybreak, though, came the damage. I walked to the end of my driveway in Galloway, in one of the South Jersey neighborhoods hardest hit by the storm, and saw trees across the roadway at both ends. One had smashed through the roof of one neighbor's home, another through someone's car windshield, and a large part of the fence in my own backyard was missing.

But it wasn't until I got into my car and started driving around Pleasantville and Northfield trying to make my way to the radio station that I realized just how powerful, and maybe even tornado-like this particular storm had been. Massive trees were uprooted, pulled right out of the sidewalks, totally unearthed. Many street signs were on their sides and trash cans were rolling around in the road. There were power outages just about everywhere.

Meteorologists quickly labeled the weather event a 'derecho', and I was like, 'come again?'. What the heck is THAT?

Definition of a Derecho

Well, horizontal, straight line winds that act as almost a side-winding cyclone. Here is how Wikipedia describes a derecho:

'A derecho (/dəˈr/, from Spanish: derecho [deˈɾetʃo], "straight") is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.[1]

Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods. Convection-induced winds take on a bow echo (backward "C") form of squall line, forming in an area of wind divergence in upper levels of the troposphere, within a region of low-level warm air advection and rich low-level moisture. They travel quickly...'

'A warm-weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially during June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere, within areas of moderately strong instability and moderately strong vertical wind shear.'

Which is why the damage looked much like that of a tornado. I lost power in my home for nearly 10 days, and quickly lost my urge to ever storm-chase. And unfortunately, many residents recovering from the derecho would soon face more damage from Hurricane Sandy just four months later.

 

SOURCES: NorEasterNick via FacebookWikipedia, Townsquare News Network

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