September 1, 2020

Just Saying…

By Q.C. Jones

Allow me to introduce you to Derecho Diablo

Your pal QC is a bit of a weather aficionado. I can trace this phenomenon back to a couple of life-changing experiences. First, I rode out 1959’s Texas Gulf Coast Hurricane Debra as a youngster. For reasons only known to the Lord above, my dad said hurricane of no, we’re not packing up and heading inland from our house on Galveston Bay. I watched in amazement as the winds ripped the roofs from our neighbor’s house, flipped over an Army truck, and shred every tree in our neighborhood. At age five, I stood on the front porch of our house equipped with a garden hoe and scared cotton mouth rattlesnakes away as they tried to swim up the steps to our house.

Perhaps more importantly, my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Corzine, the mother of Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey, decided to give our class one of the most thoughtful and hands-on classes in weather on the planet. We learned about temperatures, barometric pressures, wind speeds, cloud types, and a thousand other weather terms. To illustrate how powerful this whole thing was, Santa brought me a weather station for Christmas that year. I was a seven-year-old weatherman
extraordinaire.

Since those early years, I have experienced every form of weather possible, foul or fair. I danced with glee as Tropical Storm Isidore blasted Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I drank beers in a little pueblo as a haboob dust storm coated Arizona with powdery grit. I shoveled my way through last winter’s Storm Jacob. And, just so I don’t sound like a “glass is half empty” sort of guy, allow me to toss in a few great weather moments. I wake up at ungodly hours to see the sun rise over the Mississippi. I spent time in the high mountains of the tropics where the temperature hangs between 72 and 74, night and day, and it rains for an hour at 3:00PM every day.

What is all this weather trivia about? In all my days I have never been through a storm that even comes close to the “little” wind event of August 10th. I was prewarned of the storms power by a friend in the Ames area and another in Cedar Rapids. Their words were something like this: “We had a really big storm come through and it caused a lot of damage. It looks like it’s headed your way.”

Being a weather nerd, my reaction was to review live weather radar for Iowa and determine the location. The radar showed a front painted radar red, the color of a strong storm. This is the QCA and we have lots of “reddish” storms roll through this time of year. I returned to my work and thought little about it until the first wave swept over our area.
Based on the way the winds rattled my tiny office, I could tell it was blowing, but still no big deal. The power dipped once but returned which is typical for big storms in our fair city. In short order the power dipped again, and then a final time before going out completely. It was only then I went outside to check what was happening. The sky had an eerie dark haze and the streets were covered with thousands of leaves, small branches and the remains of a tree two doors down. I hung around the office for a couple of hours waiting for power to turn back on before giving it up and heading home. It was only then I realized the extent of the storm. The eight blocks between home and office took me nearly 25 minutes to maneuver because of down trees, powerlines and other debris.

The only locations with power were a few blocks surrounding the downtowns of Davenport, Rock Island and Moline. It was pure mayhem. I realized this was a big one.

Using the light of my cell phone, I carefully worked my way to the basement to grab my disaster radio. If you have never seen one, this is designed for catastrophes. It runs on a hand crank tied to a tiny generator mechanism. I tuned to news radio with hopes of learning more.
Conjuring up Mr. Rogers: “Can you say Derecho, boys and girls?” Truth is neither could I. Pronounced dā’rā,CHō, a Derecho is defined as a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms that move across a great distance and are characterized by damaging winds; the definition fits. A week following the event, the QCA is still in recovery mode. I still know people without electricity. The internet and cable TV lines may take weeks to be fully repaired. Nothing makes a person appreciate the 21st Century like air conditioning and lights that work. We live in an age of “named storms” but this storm has been referred to as the Iowa Derecho of 2020.

I think it should be named. I am thinking Derecho Diablo
(the Devil’s Storm). Just saying….

Filed Under: History, Humor