BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — On June 29th 2012, at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport, the thermometer reached an impressive 97 degrees with dew points approaching 70. In fact, clear, hot, and humid could sum up the weather conditions for the eastern half of the U.S. that day. The exception being a small group of thunderstorms forming in Iowa. Over the next 12 hours this small group of storms would grow and travel over 700 miles.
When all was said and done, the storms left 22 dead, cost $2.9 billion in damage across 10 states, and left millions without power for weeks. The storms also ingrained the term “derecho” into the minds of 10’s of millions of American. In perspective, the 2012 derecho was one of the most destructive derechos to be given the name but they are more common in our area than one would think.
Stormtracker 59 Chief Meteorologist Heidi Moore said, “Well, believe it or not. Typically it’s one to derecho for every two years. Now, you may be thinking that doesn’t seem right. Well, a lot of folks, when they hear the word do derecho, think of June 2012. Most of them are not quite to that caliber. That was an extraordinary event.
So what exactly is a derecho? Aside from damaging winds, heavy rains, and deadly lightning, storms must have a specific criteria to be named a derecho. There’s a few specific set of criteria the storm needs to meet. One of the most important one is the area of wind damage has to extend more than 250 miles, and you need to have wind gusts along it of at least 58 miles per hour or higher, which of course is at severe weather criteria
Multiple reports of gusts exceeding 75mph along the storm itself are required to qualify too. For 2012, several states saw winds in excess of 90mph. But that isn’t entirely what makes derechos so dangerous for our region.
The 2012 derecho was a unique and complex storm that developed under the most prime of conditions. The phrase, “it came out of the blue” speaks to the forecasting limitations of derechos and their timing. Derechos favor summertime conditions when most folks are outside.
For Almost Heaven, West Virginia, derechos strike during the heart of outdoor tourism season. But like all severe weather, awareness is paramount to safety. Know before you go, have 3 ways to get weather alerts, and have a plan when “out of the blue” severe weather strikes.