Meteorologist recalls the day the Derecho crossed W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The National Weather Service in Charleston knew West Virginia was in for some storm related activity on June 29, 2012. However, they never expected it to line up like it did.

Now a decade has passed and Meteorologist Jeff Hovis is still working out of the Charleston Weather Bureau.  He was on the job that fateful afternoon and  recalled the storm systems forming in the area of Chicago and eastern Iowa.

“All of our computer models indicated the more intense storms wouldn’t make it down here. But gradually as the day went on, the models changed and our international storm prediction center started up grading to more and more threat. Initially we thought there would be thunderstorms, but nothing like what happened,” said Hovis.

What happened was an intense straight line of thunderstorms with high winds which cut a diagonal path across West Virginia from the base of the northern panhandle all the way to the Greenbrier V alley. It spared only a few homes in the uppermost part of the Northern Panhandle.

“It crossed the Ohio River up toward Parkersburg and during the day raced southeast across the state at 50 to 60 miles an hour,” he said.

The storm spared nothing in its path. In a matter of minutes power went out to 85 percent of the homes in West Virginia–and some of them wouldn’t see it back on for nearly two weeks. The storm, as everybody would soon learn, was a rare phenomena known as a Derecho. Although rare, Hovis said the straight line storms are more common than we think….but the first one we ever heard about stretched from Chicago to Washington D.C. and was the most destructive storm most had ever seen, including Hovis.

“I had not seen one, even a less intense one. That was a very intense one,” he said.

Today, the National Weather Service and their national storm prediction center are attempting to refine the actual parameters of a derecho. Hovis said the problem now is people get nervous when they hear the term.

“They hear the ‘D-Word’ and they think we’re going to have what we had before. So there’s some work being done to somewhat classify those. The majority of derechos are not what we had. You’ll have some damage along the line, but you won’t have an entire state without power,” he said.

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