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.
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 created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.