What exactly is a Derecho, the kind of storm forecasters were warning might be headed for the East Coast on Monday? For a hint, ask the hundreds of passengers hunkered underground during a Dulles Airport tornado warning that night.
Residents in the lower mid-Atlantic states, including Washington, D.C. and the central Appalachian Mountains, had braced themselves for thunderstorms, heavy rainfall and intense winds after reports from the National Weather Service that an approaching storm could reach the threshold of a derecho in terms of size, Vox reported.
The National Weather Service defines a derecho as a widespread wind storm accompanied with bands of rapidly moving showers and thunderstorms that can be equally as destructive as tornados but the damage occurs in one direction, along a relatively straight swath.
In order for a storm to be classified as a derecho, wind gusts would have to reach at least 58 mph or greater along most of its length, with its wind damage swath extending more than 240 miles.
It’s tricky to forecast these storms as they come on quickly in relatively a small scale and there are so many moving parts involved, explained Stephen Corfidi, a researcher at University of Oklahoma’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, per Vox.
“They are a particularly difficult nut to crack,” he said.
Experts were not taking any chances with Monday's storm though, and issued warnings to residents along the East Coast amid predictions that wind gusts could reach up to 75 mph.
The weather service continued to issue warnings of heavy rain, flash floods, hail and thunderstorms throughout the night. On Tuesday morning the weather agency said in a tweet that it predicted persistent showers and thunderstorms to continue to move across northern Virginia, central Maryland, and the District of Columbia early this morning."
In 2012, a derecho with winds reaching nearly 100 mph in some places tore through Chicago, killing 13 people and leaving four million without power.
The storm caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington and in addition to the 13 people who died from downed trees, another 34 people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.
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