A Hard Road Home (Part Seven) Derecho!

 On July 11th, a straight line wind storm, known as a derecho, began in southern Story county, Iowa, and blew all the way to Detroit in about nine hours.  It peaked at 105 miles per hour, in central Iowa, creating a five mile wide path of destruction, flattening crops, uprooting trees, downing power lines, blowing off roofs, and overturning vehicles.  No one was killed.

Derechos are sudden, unpredictable, and powerful.  With windspeeds in the range of category I or II tornados, yet spread over a wider area, these storms can inflict great damage.  On July 4th, 1999, a 1300 mile long derecho left over 100 million dollars in damage across the U.S. and Canada.   Fueled by thunderstorms and downbursts, it roared for twenty-two hours from North Dakota to Maine.  Early in its path were the Boundary Waters of northeastern Minnesota.  Tens of millions of trees were blown down.  Because it was a holiday weekend, the area was filled with campers.  Scores were injured from falling trees.  Many of those had to be rescued by floatplanes.  Four people died. 

Trevor had already left for the detaselling fields— Cornelius Seedcorn, twenty-one miles to the northeast, on the morning of our derecho.  They had winds, and rain in the fields that day, but avoided the path of the high winds.   It was a day of summer squalls that brought short-lived relief from the heat and humidity in the rows, but left them more humid and more muddy when they had passed.

I was up, sitting at my desk, checking on 40th Reunion details, before work. The day was dawning, the windows were open, and I was enjoying my morning coffee.  In a short span, however, the skies started  to darken.  I decided to check on the weather, but before I could call up a weather channel on the computer, the power went out briefly, and the house was suddenly inundated by a torrent of wind. 

I slammed the windows shut.  Fearing “tornado”, the three of us, Sandy, Drew, and myself, headed for the basement.  Before we got there, the wind had already died down to something more normal.  When I left for work, shortly after that, I could not get past the cemetery ridge because of a downed tree.  As it turned out, three of the four directions from our house were blocked by downed trees and branches.  I took the Whoopie hills.

When I reached 136, the landscape changed.  All of the crops, on either side were horizontal.  “These will never recover,” I thought. 

By evening, I knew that this had been a derecho, and I scanned the landscape carefully on the trip home.  It was strangely curious to see what had been the exact path of the wind.  From hilltops, I could see channels through fields, where on one side all the crops were still lying flat, and on the other side there was no damage at all.  I could see where it had climbed hills, crossed 136, and raged through the next field.  I could see where it had snapped the tallest tree at the cemetery.  I could see that the cemetery had been along the northern edge of the derecho that morning.  A large cottonwood on the road west of our house had snapped.  I had marveled that the two old elm trees next to the house had not come down.  Our house had been spared a direct hit by less than a thousand feet. 



Alexis’ Page:

Alexis Anne Gilbert  At home with no power. Three candles lit all different fragrances and a sweet baby to keep me company. God is good and I am going to stay in a great mood despite what is happening outside. Stay safe everyone.

Like ·  · July 11 at 7:59am via mobile ·

Hope Bredeson storms in the area, I guess…be safe

July 11 at 8:02am · Like

Sandy Kabala We had a bad storm this morning. A tree fell over the road down at the cemetery and caused a power outage. The farmer moved the tree and the power is back on. Glad you’re ok. Call me later.

July 11 at 9:24am · Like

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