A massive “derecho” collection of several thunderstorms packing gusts of up to 100 miles an hour along a span of 240 miles is in its early stages of formation as storms roll eastward from the Midwest and are expected to bring flooding to the New York and New England area.
The word “derecho” is Spanish for ”straight,” characterizing the straight-line winds that are forecast to devastate areas where 20 percent of American until Friday.
The potentially massive storm system is a collection of storms that join together, creating a potentially deadly blow from Chicago to Baltimore and possibly into Philadelphia. High winds and heavy rains are predicted for the New York area, particularly eastern Long Island, and along the New England coast.
Last year, a derecho smacked into 11 states and Washington, killing 13 people, downing trees and causing power blackouts and $1 billion in damage.
The storm is 240 miles wide and is expected to travel 50 miles, starting with thunderstorm Wednesday afternoon and evening in northern Illinois, according to AccuWeather.
Tornados are possible.
If the thunderstorms connect, as expected, the system will be in the form of a bow that will develop into a derecho.
One of the worst facets of the derecho is the surprise factor.
Accu Weather advised, “If you will be out and about or have any plans Wednesday afternoon through the night, you will need to pay special attention to the weather as this could be a particularly dangerous situation…
“Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature’s most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.”
“It’s a pretty high threat,” said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.”
The storms will move so fast that “by the time you see the dark sky and distant thunder you may have only minutes to get to safe shelter,” Bunting added.
The derecho is not expected to be as savage as previous ones that hit the United States last year, in 2003 and 2006, but damage and flooding might be more extensive.
The “best case” scenario I that the thunderstorms will not connect. “It’s like predicting a large tornado is going to happen. No one can do that. The only thing we can do is say conditions are favorable for one to happen,” said MSNBC meteorologist Bill Karins.