Huge storm threatens millions across midwest, possible “derecho” superstorm feared

A reader just emailed me about this, and I didn’t even realize it was going on. A “gigantic” line of thunderstorms is heading east, and expected to impact states from Wisconsin all the way to Maryland over the next 24 to 36 hours. The storm may even spur a possible “derecho,” a term I wasn’t familiar with. But basically, it’s the kind of storm that knocked out power on the east coast last summer.

A non-derecho storm front we had here in DC a week or so ago. (Photo by John Aravosis)

A non-derecho storm front we had here in DC a week or so ago. (Photo by ©John Aravosis)

Well, it’s baaaack.

The National Weather Service says 12 million people are at risk of severe weather.  The biggest risk is in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. There’s less of a risk for an area extending from Wisconsin to Washington, DC. The storms may pack winds as high as 50 to 100mph (I know we had like 75mph gusts in Chicago last year, and there went the power for 24 hours).

What’s makes a “derecho” (the word for straight line, or straight ahead, in Spanish) so special is that while normal thunderstorms have damaging winds a mile or two wide and a few miles long, derechos can have damaging winds tens of miles wide, and hundreds of miles long.

According to NOAA, the Weather Service’s parent agency, a storm qualifies as a derecho is “if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length.”

More from CBS:

The risk of severe weather in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, is roughly 45 times higher than on a normal June day, Bunting said. Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Louisville, Ky., have a risk level 15 times more than normal. All told, the area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 64 million people in 10 states.

“It’s a pretty high threat,” Bunting said, who also warned that the storms will produce large hail and dangerous lightning. “We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.”

Wednesday “might be the worst severe weather outbreak for this part of the country for the year,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.

Growing up in the midwest, I think I’ve gained a healthy respect for storms, but also an utter fascination with them.  While, sure, I love a sunny day, what really gets me going is a LOUD, lightning filled, thunderstorm.  I love thinking back to standing on the front porch, smelling the rain in the air, the way the temperature suddenly cools down.  Love it.

Here are a few of my storm photos, since we’re on the topic:

DC-storms-2

This was a few years ago, a truly nasty front rolling through DC. (photo by ©John Aravosis)

And the photo above is kind of fun, because in addition to being rather apocalyptic (note the tornado-friendly green developing in parts), I love the little bird I caught right in the middle of the sky – here’s a blow up:

bird-against-storm

Storm-in-Stockholm

This was a nice storm rolling into Stockholm a couple years ago. (photo by ©John Aravosis)

And here’s a video I shot in the Chicago are on July 22, 2011, of a great storm front moving in.  Depending on the light, you can catch how the sky was turning green in some parts.  The conventional wisdom back home is that green is bad, as in tornado weather (thanks to reader Robert Martin for the “green” link).  Also, fast moving clouds are another bad sign.  (You’ll hear my dog Sasha freaking out in the background because I dared to leave the house and shoot some pictures without her.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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