Possible derecho hits U.S. northeast

Hundreds of flights were canceled, and 300,000 people lost power as severe thunderstorms hit the U.S. Northeast on the evening of July 26.

Much of the U.S. Northeast was hit by a major storm late in the day on July 26, 2012. Some media are saying it was a derecho – a violent storm system that can produce widespread wind damage across a large area – but I have not heard that its derecho status has been officially confirmed. It’s also possible it was simply a line of squalls, accompanying a cold front moving through the area.

Officials confirmed to WCBS in New York that one 61-year-old man was killed after lightning struck a church in Brooklyn, causing scaffolding to collapse.

What you need to know about derechos

The July 26, 2012 storm as seen from New Jersey, with lightning in the distance. This photo is via <ahref=’http://facebook.com/earthsky’ target=-blank>EarthSky Facebook friend Lilliana Mendez. Thank you, Lilliana.

July 26, 2012 storm as seen from a New Jersey rooftop. Photo via EarthSky Facebook friend Manos Makrakis. Thank you, Manos!

Philadelphia also saw the same large storm system on July 26. EarthSky Facebook Stephen Olson captured this image. In his words, the storm was pretty crazy here in Philly. Thank you, Stephen.

In Elmira, NY on July 26, a suspected tornado damaged buildings and ripped up trees. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Steven Eskholme. Go to EarthSky’s Facebook page for many more photos of the storm. Click on Recent Posts by Others.

Storm damage in Elmira, New York from severe storm and reported tornado there on July 26, 2012. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Steven Eskholme. Thank you, Steven, for all of your photos.

Yesterday afternoon, as the storm was anticipated, at least 842 flights were canceled. After the storm began in late afternoon and early evening, nearly 300,000 people lost power in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The storm brought rain, hail and possible derecho winds. A tornado watch was issued for parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

In Elmira, New York, a suspected tornado tore down trees, ripped roofs from buildings and trapped people in vehicles. The local county emergency management director (Chemung County, New York) told CNN that, in addition to damaging buildings, yesterday’s storm also left hospitals on disaster status.

The storm hit around 4 p.m. in Elmira.

Forecasters are still trying to determine if the July 26 storm was a derecho. According to NOAA Storm Prediction Center website, a derecho is defined as an event that has wind gusts of at least 58 mph and leaves a swath of damage for a minimum of 240 miles.

Bottom line: Media are saying that the severe and widespread storm system that hit the U.S. Northeast on July 26 was a derecho, but I have not seen official confirmation of that. A suspected tornado damaged buildings, trapped people in their cars and left hospitals on alert status in Elmira, NY. Go to EarthSky Facebook for many more photos of this storm. Click on Recent Posts by Others.

Deborah Byrd

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