July 2, 2012 at 1:36 am (books, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Weather)

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines  derecho as “…a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.” The rest of us here in the mid-Atlantic region are calling it one heck of a storm. (I like to keep this blog family friendly.) Think of it as a thunderstorm on steroids.

There’s a  photo on the NOAA site that speaks volumes. It was taken by Brittney Misialek, a former WGN weather intern. Here’s the caption:

Photo of the gust front “arcus” cloud on the leading edge of a derecho-producing storm system. The photo was taken on the evening of July 10, 2008 in Hampshire, Illinois as the derecho neared the Chicago metropolitan area. The derecho had formed around noon local time in southern Minnesota.

In an article in today’s print edition of the Washington Post, Jason Samenow states: “Only a meteorologist was likely to have made the right guess about the violent storm system that hit the Washington area Friday night.” With respect, I’d like to offer a small amendment to that statement. Readers familiar with Northwest Angle, a 2011 work  of crime fiction by William Kent Krueger, will also have heard of derechos.

Although I very much admire the work of this writer, I have not yet read this recent entry in his Cork O’Connor series. I did, however, read the Author’s Note that precedes the text a couple of weeks ago. In it,  Krueger offers the following as background to his novel:

On July 3, 1999, a cluster of thunderstorms developed in the Black Hills area of South Dakota and began to track to the northeast. On the morning of July 4, something phenomenal occurred with this storm system, something monstrous. At the edge of western Minnesota, the storm clouds gathered and exploded, creating what would become one of the most destructive derechos ever to sweep across this continent.

A derecho is a unique storm system, a bow-shaped formation of towering black clouds that generate straight-line winds of hurricane force. The derecho that formed on July 4 barreled across northern Minnesota.

Krueger goes on to describe the devastation wrought by the derecho on one of his favorite places, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, “…a land so beautiful it’s as near heaven as you’re likely to find anywhere in this earth.”

The Author’s Note concludes:

I have always known that such a storm would play a part in one of my stories. This is the story. 


Click here for Jason Samenow’s account of Friday night’s storm.

There are plenty of people in this area who are still without power. Our local power company, BGE, has put a Storm Center on its website. In addition, the Washington Post has some useful information concerning numbers to call, if you need further assistance.


  1. Eagle-Eyed Editor said,

    So THAT’S what hit us! I love that photograph — very impressive. We’re still cleaning up from it, too. Some people are still without power and so are some traffic lights. Not fun.

  2. kdwisni said,

    Thanks for reminding me about Northwest Angle. It’s been on my to-read list for awhile, and I see the library now has some copies on the shelves.
    He has slowly become one of my favorite living US mystery writers, thanks to his vivid sense of place and fully realized characters.

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