Local Weather History: How the Storm Complex Was First Called “Derecho” and How It Connects to Our Area
Dr. Gustavus Detlef Hindrichs, professor at the University of Iowa and founder of the state’s first weather service, discovered an unusually strong and widespread storm that hit Iowa in 1877. He published the results of the storm later in his 1888 Journal of Meteorological Research. He coined the term “derecho” which means “straight” in Spanish. It depends on the extent and intensity of the damage. This gave it this special designation.
In that study he points out that Derecho struck on July 31, 1877.
The only severe storm reported at that time was on July 26, when an estimated 100 mph wind gust was reported at Fort Surrey, Dakota Territory (now Pierre, South Dakota). Musical instrument shelters were leveled, fences were demolished, fences were leveled. The final gust was measured at 84 mph before tearing from the roof and collapsing the chimney.
On July 30th, heavy hail fell in Bismarck, Dakota Territory (now North Dakota), severely damaging the buckwheat harvest and causing “severe damage”. An 84 mph wind gust was measured in North Platte, Nebraska on July 30th. On August 1, he hit two tornadoes on the Delmarva Peninsula, with damage reported in Kingston and Princess Anne, Maryland.
Significant wind and hail damage was reported in Hagerstown, Maryland on July 28, the same day a measured 60 mph gust was recorded in Washington, DC (a major flash flood was reported). However, no rainfall was measured in Chicago and Indianapolis on July 31st. Indy peaked at 88 on July 31st and 88 on August 1st. Meanwhile, Maryland, Delware, Vermont and New Hampshire reported significant flash flooding from storms.
However, I began further investigation and discovered on August 31, 1877, a significant severe weather event on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, caused by a seiche or “tsunami” (often caused by a derecho).
Widespread damage from Omaha and Council Bluffs through Iowa to Illinois and northern Indiana, followed by widespread wind damage, hail and several tornadoes all the way to Ontario and Pennsylvania, causing heavy damage again. It seems to have become more intense.
It started with “hail of extraordinary magnitude” northeast of Omaha, then a tornado destroyed an iron bridge over the Missouri River between Council Bluffs and Omaha. His newly built three-story, 102-foot-by-52-foot asylum facility at Council Bluffs was level with material transported a mile away. Damage was $245,000 (adjusted for inflation), but no damage was reported in central Council Bluffs. The tornado reportedly weighed “thousands of tons.” He took 250-foot steel spans and threw them into the river at a cost of $2.5 million (inflation-adjusted). It was the last reported tornado from central Illinois (Gilman) and southeastern Michigan to Ontario.
As the storms moved eastward, they appeared to be more and more widespread, dominated by the wind.
Cornfields in Iowa were reportedly “ruined.”
In Brandon, Iowa, it was the worst storm since 1858, with winds and hail reportedly causing a 30-50% loss in the surrounding corn crop. Twenty-six window lights were broken in the town and many trees were knocked down. Floods erupted, flooding Lime and Bear Creeks and swept away fences. Damage was reported in Pella, Oskaloosa, Des Moines, Davenport and Dubuque, Iowa. Near Oskaloosa he had three children wounded.
A “terrible storm” was reported in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, destroying a church in Wisconsin Rapids.
Severe damage was reported in the city of Jefferson, Missouri, with corn completely flattened, trees uprooted, and St. Louis devastated by high winds across the city. A lot of damage was reported to trees, structures and fences in the Jefferson Barracks area.
West of our area of Gilman, Illinois, reported “extreme damage” with “houses blown” and “mills completely destroyed.” One worker died from falling timber. The factory destruction alone cost him $2.4 million (inflation-adjusted).
Trees and limbs were knocked down, roofs blown off, and the Harris Brothers’ new factory “taken away” in and around Greencastle, Indiana. Reported and reported.
Detroit reported severe linear wind damage with a brief tornado evident on the outskirts of Collingwood, seeing the chapel completely destroyed. Windsor, Ontario reported very strong winds with hail that only added to its destructive power. A damaging tornado slammed into Sandwich, Ontario, with extensive wind damage reported from Benton Harbor, Adrian, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Michigan to Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, Painesville and Venice, Ohio. Cleveland reported hail 0.5 to 1.25 inches in diameter as the wind caused structural damage, damaging trees, utility poles and power lines extensively. in diameter).
In Wood County, Ohio, wind and hail have significantly reduced a bountiful wheat harvest. 20/bu. Yields were previously reported but the fields only averaged 4.3 bu./acre as the crop fields were completely flattened and shredded. Damage was also reported in Pittsburgh and Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.
The seiche reportedly originated in Lake Erie, traveled through northwestern Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania, and flowed upstream up the Cuyahoga River for some time as the Derecho winds propagated the seiche inland.
Even in the south near Cincinnati, Ohio, a “severe windstorm” hit Maysville, Kentucky early on September 1, blowing off the roofs of several buildings and causing extensive damage to trees, fences, utility poles and power lines. gave Steamer his Wildwood on the wharf of the Ohio River has been damaged.
Indianapolis recorded a high of 89 on the August 31st storm day (although only 0.09 inches of rain was measured), but 71 on September 1 and 69 on September 2. It didn’t pass.
This appears to have been a hybrid derecho.
It had the characteristics of a progressive derecho in that it orbited around a dome of raging heat and possessed one or more fiery bows. However, it also appears to have been accompanied by an organized cyclone system with warm and cold fronts passing through the Corn Belt and Great Lakes.
Note: Please note that we do not yet have all of the storm reports plotted in the image below. Investigation continues. Some reports should be done in southern Wisconsin and most of northern Illinois and Indiana (although Derecho’s damage is limited to areas west, northwest, north and northeast of southern Indiana). I also need to plot some additional reports I found in Southern Michigan.
Also, reports of tornadoes from the Delmarva Peninsula should be removed. These are from his July 30th, which I accidentally plotted on this map.
STORM REPORTS from newspapers, diaries, agricultural publications, NOAA archives:
red = tornado
green = hail
wind = blue
August 10, 2020 Continuous Derecho Storm Report: