Well, I learned a new word today…derecho. For a writer and lifelong reader, that's kind of a big deal. Not on the magnitude of digging a hole in the back yard to plant a rose bush and inadvertently striking oil, or even spotting a breeze-blown five dollar bill in the grocery store parking lot. But at least as exciting as rooting around in the back of the refrigerator for breakfasting inspiration and discovering a forgotten slice of chocolate cake your daughter made for your birthday last month.
A kind of big deal from an admittedly modest perspective. And maybe a big deal given its omen value.
Derecho, as I encountered the word, is a meteorological term used describe an extensive windstorm—long-lived and fast-moving—which covers vast distances and produces severe straight-line winds. These winds are sustained and, unlike winds found with most thunderstorms, actually increase behind the passing front—typically exceeding hurricane force; as you might imagine, often damaging winds, indeed. Plus derechos carry the additional possibility of large hail and dangerous lightening, along with the wind and rain.
We all understand the Spanish-derived tornado means "twisted"…spinning or twisting winds; derecho also comes from the Spanish for "straight." Straight winds, marching like a battalion in a massive frontline long enough to stretch from north of Milwaukee south to Louisville, Kentucky. Tomorrow's east-bound derecho is predicted to begin in Iowa around midday, pass through Chicago in early afternoon, arrive hereabouts sometime later in the afternoon and—providing the front makes it intact across the Appalachians—visit Washington before evening…a town that could desperately use a good airing out.
Or things could just break up before they start, and the whole event turn into nothing more than a typical spate of late-spring thunderstorms. Nothing more than an overhasty muttering of doom-and-gloom. Bad for the weather folks and folketts, who take such dithering delight in pandering to our fears while doing their rough-and-ready standups amid the blow and drizzle.
But good for those of us always looking to add to our vocabulary.