Seems to me the word of the year for 2012 is going to be actually two. I’m not going to repeat them, because even if you don’t follow national politics, you’re more than likely sick of hearing it. I will say the first letter of the first word is F, which seems appropriate.
There is another candidate for word of the year, at least among weather watchers in Washington - derecho. I know, it sounds like a spaghetti western parody. But on the night of June 29th, folks in the mid-Atlantic and elsewhere were not laughing.
It’s an odd assortment of feelings, but weather geeks like myself love tracking incoming weather storms. As we speak, snow lovers here are tracking a Saturday-morning snow storm, expected to bring 1 to 2 inches to inside the Beltway, and 2 to 4 for parts north and west.
(Update: Pick up that honey-do list men, it doesn’t look good).
Snow watching can be magical but the real adrenalin surge comes (usually) in the summer when the atmosphere fires up and thunderstorms sweep in. This summer, the game of radar watching reached levels of excitement and concern never before seen by most Washingtonians and folks in the region.
Before the internet, weather geeks like myself were glued to their TV sets when severe weather approached. The Weather Channel was the place to be back then with wall to wall coverage. The local channels too, but usually not on an extended level.
Several years ago the "Capital Weather Gang" (The Washington Post) entered the game. Combined, all three platforms do an excellent job, but for many weather watchers, including myself, CWG has become the place to be for tracking storms and getting updates.
June 29th was a Friday night. Much of the eastern half of the nation was enduring a prolonged heat wave. Record high temperatures, sometimes reaching triple digits, baked parched lands day after day. Severe thunderstorms were possible, and if you looked to the national radar, you might have seen a growing red surge below the Great Lakes. But that was 600 miles to the west.
The Capital Weather Gang has assembled a team of seasoned veterans. One of the most familiar is Jason Samenow. He had the duty watch that night and published the first warning. What follows below are a series of posts Samenow and others at CWG made. For the sake of brevity, I have edited out much. And their coverage that night is just a fraction of the total amount they provided.
The graphs were not posted that night. I put them in to give a better sense of what was happening.
On a personal note, I remember checking radar in the late afternoon and seeing that blowup of storms. It scared me but I knew they could not last for all that distance. I’m an early riser and went to bed around 10. We were awakened by the winds and the power went out. We got it back the next afternoon. Oaks and maples soar above us, so I remember the debris pick up. No damage, happy to say.
Thanks to all the crews who always work hard and to CWG. Like all snow lovers, they’re disappointed about the lack of snow this morning (so far anyway), but they earned gold stars on the night of the derecho. For all we all went through, I'd say it’s our word of the year.
Posted at 04:43 PM ET, 06/29/2012
Gusty storms may momentarily break historic heat tonight; more brutal heat, storms this weekend
After the hottest June day in recorded Washington, D.C. history (104), the atmosphere is juiced for the possibility of strong-to-severe thunderstorms overnight. The weekend remains oppressively hot and humid, with likely additional rounds of late day thunderstorms - a few of which may be violent.
Through Tonight: A complex of thunderstorms with a history of producing damaging winds from Chicago to Fort Wayne, IN (91 mph gust) to Columbus, Oh (72 mph wind gust) is headed in the general direction of the metro region.
Destructive storms roll through D.C. area; Power outages, damage reports throughout region (LIVE BLOG)
By Jason Samenow and Theodore Kim
8:30 PM UPDATE: Storms are now racing into eastern West Virginia and west central Virginia (Staunton and Harrisonburg) where severe thunderstorm warnings are in effect. So far, the storms have not weakened appreciably. More than 800,000 customers without power from northwest Indiana through West Virgnia according to Twitter feed @emgis. An 88 mph wind gust was clocked at White Sulphur Springs, WV.
OVERVIEW, from 6:45 p.m.: A derecho - a large, long-lived line of fast moving, violent thunderstorms - is headed towards the Washington, D.C. metro region. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the D.C. area and a large region to the south and west through 1 a.m.
As the line moves through, wind gusts up to 80 mph are possible. This derecho has a history of producing damaging winds of 70-90 mph from Chicago through Columbus. Some hail is also possible. Dangerous lightning and torrential rain will also likely accompany these storms.
9:20 PM UPDATE: While I said earlier storms may be strongest south of D.C., latest radar would indicate the most intense storms may span from Fairfax county on the south side to central and northern Maryland on the north side. The Storm Prediction Center has upgraded the region’s risk level to the rare moderate category.
10:05 PM UPDATE: REPEATING: Potentially destructive storms with winds to 70 mph moving into western suburbs of D.C. Widespread power outages and tree damage likely. Many trees reported down near Berryville in Clarke Co. Capital Weather Watcher in Warren co. ERIC64 reports “incredible wind”. Twitter follower WVASPARTAN reports power out and 68 mph wind gust on home weather station in Charles Town, W. Va.
10:15 PM UPDATE: URGENT - SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR ALL OF METRO DC THROUGH 11:15 PM FOR POSSIBLE DESTRUCTIVE WINDS TO 80 MPH OR HIGHER. STAY INSIDE, AWAY FROM WINDOWS.
10:58 PM UPDATE: Sorry for the delay. Our intrepid Jason Samenow has lost power. Mobile Editor Theodore Kim (@TheoTypes) here to take you through. We’re getting *lots* of reports of high gusts and some damage.
11:08 PM UPDATE: Jeremy Bowers just shared with us a crazy video of the harsh weather from Downtown D.C. Here’s the link: https://twitter.com/jeremybowers/status/218901737711476736
12:19 AM UPDATE: Capital Weather tweets “A day/night DC will remember for long time. Hottest June day on record & one of most massive tstorm outbreaks w/ widespread 60-80 mph winds.”
12:31 AM UPDATE: Was just talking to Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow, who is winding down for the night. He notes that tomorrow could pose significant problems for much of the region as power outages continue and the heat cranks up to triple digits. Definitely something to watch for (and plan for).
12:44 AM UPDATE: A last word from @CapitalWeather via Twitter:
“W/ mass power outages, no AC, & extreme heat Sat, please take it easy, hydrate & check on older adults. Serious heat illness risk.
Thanks to everyone for following our updates & sending reports/photos. Please be safe and check for more coverage Saturday.”
02:15 PM ET, 06/30/2012
Derecho: Behind Washington, D.C.’s destructive thunderstorm outbreak, June 29, 2012
Between 9:30 and 11 p.m. Friday night, one of the most destructive complexes of thunderstorms in memory swept through the entire D.C. area. Packing wind gusts of 60-80 mph, the storm produced extensive damage, downing hundreds of trees, and leaving more than 1 million area-residents without power.
Racing along at speeds over 60 mph, the bowing line of thunderstorms formed west of Chicago around 11 a.m. and by midnight approached the Atlantic ocean. It left a massive trail of destruction spanning from northern Illinois to the Delmarva Peninsula. The National Weather Service has logged well over 800 reports of damaging winds.
This kind of fast-moving, long-lived, large, and violent thunderstorm complex is known as a derecho.