Powerful Midwest Derecho Slams Trees and Buildings, Knocks Out Power to More Than a Million
A powerful series of thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Monday, downing trees, damaging structures and knocking out power to more than a million people.
The storms, which produced winds of more than 100 miles per hour, formed a phenomenon known as a derecho, a long-lasting, far-spreading windstorm caused by a series of thunderstorms, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
"This is our version of a hurricane," Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini told The Associated Press.
Who had this on their #2020 bingo card? https://t.co/bcYgY36AgA— Victo☈ Gensini (@Victo☈ Gensini)1597101094.0
While derechos usually occur one to two times a year, they do not usually blow as hard as Monday's storm, National Weather Service (NWS) scientist Patrick Marsh told The New York Times. He compared it to the "Super Derecho" of 2009. Gensini, meanwhile, said it would emerge as one of the strongest in recent history and one of the most extreme weather events of 2020.
The storm system began in southeast South Dakota and eastern Nebraska Monday morning before blasting through Iowa, northern and central Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southwest Michigan, Indiana and northwest Ohio, The Weather Channel reported.
Winds of up to 100 miles per hour ripped through Marshall County, Iowa, leading to several injuries and extensive property damage, the county's homeland security coordinator Kim Elder told The Associated Press.
Elder said the storm blew over trees and cars, downed power lines, ripped the roofs off of buildings and started fires. All told, a third of customers in Iowa were without power, according to CNN.
"Everybody in town is without power except those with a generator," Marshalltown, Iowa Mayor Joel Greer told The New York Times. Greer declared a state of emergency for the city, which he said was still recovering from a 2018 tornado. "It hit us at a time when we were just getting back on our feet," Greer said.
Check out images of storm damage sent by viewers across central Iowa. https://t.co/nr4KD4ZbVS #iawx #SevereWX https://t.co/y4rm2uEbBJ— WHO 13 News (@WHO 13 News)1597084779.0
The storms entered the Chicago area around 3:30 p.m. according to NBC 5 Chicago. They downed trees and knocked out power to more than 500,000 ComEd customers.
"Much of northern Illinois has pockets of damage with downed trees, debris, and powerlines blocking roadways," NWS Chicago tweeted.
A wind gust of 92 miles per hour was reported near Dixon, Illinois, about 100 miles west of Chicago, The Associated Press reported.
Hold on #chcago here she co.e 80mpg winds @nbcchicago @fox32news https://t.co/vsGhDG0N1t— Michael Kinsch (@Michael Kinsch)1597093259.0
Monday's derecho was formed by unstable, wet air that had remained over the Midwest for several days, The Associated Press explained.
"They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms," Gensini said. "Once they get going like they did across Iowa, it's really hard to stop these suckers."
It is unclear what impact the climate crisis will have on derechos, as the SPC explained:
A warmer planet at first glance would appear to be more conducive to the development of the intense thunderstorms that comprise derecho-producing convective systems. But thunderstorm updrafts require the presence of strong vertical temperature gradients; any warming occurring at the surface likely also would occur aloft. Thus, the net change in instability due to thermal changes likely would be minimal. And, although a warmer environment implies greater atmospheric moisture content and conditional instability (instability related to the release of latent heat during condensation), all other factors remaining equal, the increased moisture likely also would yield more widespread low-level cloud cover. Such cloudiness would negatively impact storm initiation and derecho development. What is more certain is that the band of enhanced upper-level flow that encircles the planet --- the jet stream --- would contract poleward in a warmer world. Because derechos tend to form on the equatorward side of the jet stream along the northern fringes of warm high pressure ("fair weather") systems, it is reasonable to conclude that the corridors of maximum derecho frequency would shift poleward with global warming.
Derechos, however, interact with other extreme weather conditions related to a warming planet. Marsh warned that the power outages could have a negative impact on vulnerable people in the region dealing with high heat. He said the power outages also compounded the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"[I]t becomes dire pretty quickly," he told The Associated Press.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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