Everywhere I’ve gone over the past week, people have been sharing their stories … where they were, what it looked like, what it sounded like and what kind of damage it left in it’s wake.  What is this thing that everyone is talking about?  The Derecho!

The what??

Derecho! Now a familiar word in the everyday language of most people who live in the mid atlantic states.

While we were in the middle of this incredibly scary wind storm, most folks kept uttering the word “tornado”.  It came with a fury and was gone before we had time to know what hit us.  Stories of flying debris, being trapped in darkened movie theaters, and racing to get home on roads without lights or traffic signals, soon gave way to massive trees being pulled up by their roots, often times blocking roads, bringing down power lines and falling into houses.  Five hundred thousand Virginians were left without power and 9 people lost their lives.

Everyone has a story … but almost no one had heard the name Derecho.  Fewer still, and I am one of them, didn’t learn the right way to pronounce it until a week after it had wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of people.  Now we know that Derecho is pronounced “day-RAY-cho”

derecho, the Spanish word for straight, is a widespread and long-lived, violent convectively induced straight line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.  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.

Check out this video link from the NASA satellite:

Wikipedia offers a list of modern day derechos and our storm of June 29, 2012 is on this fairly short list.  As often is the case in our modern tech world, Facebook became a source of information, of comfort and for the sharing of stories.   Folks offered rooms, refrigerator space, pet care, laundry facilities, and a helping hand with clean up.  Praise was heaped upon the officials and front line workers trying to keep people safe and power restored (although after 9 days, some are understandably frustrated with the continuing power outages).  As of July 7th, over 7000 Virginians were still without power  In my own New River Valley, many friends were without power up to one week after the storm, and as I write, a few remain a part of that 7000.

It has been so sad to see stately old trees pulled up by their roots, an example being this giant pecan tree in Radford.

Of course, even more devastating is the destruction to homes and businesses, and the blocking of roads, and downed power lines.


Photo Credit:  Lucinda                                                  Photo Credit:  Pam


Photo Credit: Lucinda                                                     Photo Credit: Pam

Friends like Pam described coming through Fairlawn and being caught in a shower of blue gas station towels after the container had been blown apart by the wind.  Bev and B talked of racing across Memorial Bridge during the middle of the storm, with the car being pushed and pulled by the wind.  Amy and Pat watched the wind blow across Claytor Lake from their house up on the hill.  Many, many people ran for their basements if they had one, grabbing children and pets as they ran.  A group of friends were sitting in a movie theater when the place went dark.  Cell phones were turned back on and movie watchers were alarmed to read messages about a possible tornado passing through.  Diana, Juli, Vanessa, Leslie, and Amy were moved, along with everyone else, from the theater to the lobby and back into the theater, in the dark, having no idea what was happening outside and fearing for the safety of friends and family.

I was at Cherie and Tim’s house with other friends.  Their house is up on a plateau of sorts, and the moaning of the wind through the trees was wild and frightening.  (I do have to confess, however, that being the adrenalin junkie that I am, I was pretty exhilarated by the whole thing).  The hot tub cover and plane fuel tank (and a whole lot of other stuff, too) flying over the house into the neighboring field was startling to see.  No, it wasn’t a cow, but it was impressive none the less.  As soon as the wind died down, we put on our post storm chasing gear (ie shoes), jumped in the 4WD and headed out to recover debris scattered through out the fields (including that “fuselage”, right Cherie?).

Cherie and Kelsi ready for the post storm hunt

How ironic that power and water were unavailable but FB kept right on humming along!  Calls for help and storm stories were soon shared. I loved the story that Ian and Meredith posted: “we made it down from Mill Mountain in the windstorm, only stopped by fallen trees three times, but with a dozen other people, we dragged them aside (with help from a pick up truck and my tow rope, for the last one), while being pummeled by small branches all the while.  There was definitely a sudden sense of community, and the team of youngsters in particular (high school seniors) leapt into action with gusto”.

I am inspired by the teamwork and camaraderie between strangers that occurs during times like these.

My friends Liz and Wilson sent a message asking for help taking care of a downed tree in their driveway.  Wilson and his “all woman crew” made short work of clearing the driveway and stacking the wood, and Michael finished the job later (Tree Beaver Tree Services).


Wilson, me, Katy                                                              Wilson, Liz, Katy


                                                                                                       Michael (photo credit: Liz)

A few folks resorted to humor in the days after the storm.  Kristie sent a message by FB, noting that “We have air conditioning, plenty of room, and cold beer for any friends still without power – of course Rick and I will be leaving as soon as you get here – don’t mind the 3 screaming overly dramatic girls fighting over the TV, popsicles, and “privacy ” -you’ll hardly notice them…really”.

Mary noted that “It would not surprise me a single bit if male children conceived during this lengthy power outage (yes, that is what people will do when TV, computer, radio, telephones are unavailable) will be named Derecho”.  This long time labor and delivery nurse, now Women’s Health Navigator, would know!

People have talked of gratitude for having little or no damage, or for friends who came to the rescue during difficult times.  Frustration has been expressed for lengthy times without power and water, or maybe even worse, being teased by the cycle of power being on briefly and then right off again.  We have all been reminded of the power of Mother Nature.

Yet, we also remember that it could have been so much worse.  We are not Joplin, Missouri, New Orleans, or the eastern coast of Japan.  Most of us will clean up and move on …

… and we are all grateful for being able to do just that.

2 thoughts on “Derecho

  1. what a great community of friends. Storms have a way of reminding us of what is truly treasured. so glad that all are OK!

Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s