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Wonder has a name: DERECHO

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A long lived Derecho storm system moved across the Chicago metro area yesterday morning.” This system according to The Examiner caused considerable damage and power outages to many in the Chicagoland area.

My question is…what is a Derecho and where did this term come from all of a sudden? It seems that in the last week or so, many meteorologists and weather reporters have been spotlighting this new word. The word is so new, that at, the only entry they have for the word is its Spanish origin.  There is not a definition.  If you want a definition, there is one at  It states that a Derecho, pronounced (day-RAY-cho), is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.

Source: The USA TODAY Weather Book by Jack Williams
As the line of thunderstorms moves along, usually to the east, humid air flows up into the storms. Cold air from aloft descends to create winds.

That is great, except that we had a word for this type of windstorm.  It was called a Squall Line. However, I looked the term Squall line up and found some differences between a Derecho and a Squall line. A Squall Line is defined in The American Heritage Science Dictionary “…as a line of sudden, sometimes violent thunderstorms that develop on the leading edge of a cold front. Squall lines can form up to 50 to 149 miles in front of an advancing cold front and can be more than 99 miles long. The thunderstorms of a squall line can produce severe weather conditions, such as hail and rain accompanied by winds of over 60 miles per hour; they are also associated with tornadoes, especially in spring and early summer.”

This all sounds very similar to the newly touted Derecho, but according to Jack Williams at USA Today, “Derechos are the result of squall-line thunderstorms that create one downburst after another as they move along. Downbursts are winds that blast down from thunderstorms.  Occasionally, a Derecho thunderstorm will spin out a small tornado or two, but straight-line winds do most of their damage.  Derechos are most common on the central and northern Plains and across the Midwest into the Ohio Valley in the late spring and during the summer.”

Hmm… I guess a Derecho is not a Squall line after all.  However, why have I never heard of this weather term before? In my research, I found out that a man named Gustavus Hinrichs, the director of the Iowa Weather Service in the 1880’s coined the name, Derecho.  It comes from a Spanish word meaning, “straight ahead” or “direct”.  Hinrichs intended it to contrast with “tornado” which comes from the Spanish word for “turn”.  Okay, so the word has been around for a while. I just wonder why the meteorologists and weather reporters feel the need to bring “Derecho” out of the closet, now?

Jack Williams states in his article at USA Today, “…that while most people in the Midwest are unfamiliar with the “Derechoes”, these windy storms are very common.”  Well, darn, if they are so very common, why haven’t they been mentioned more often?

 I have two possible answers to this question.  The first is that meteorologists and weather reporters want to look super intelligent, so they pulled out this weather term to impress their viewers.  The second is that our weather is changing so rapidly and is so erratic that a term to describe it had to be found.  Consequently, the super intelligent people in charge of the weather scoured through the tomes of weather history to find just the right word, “Derecho”.  I suppose it is feasible that our record-breaking weather this year is beyond even the experts’ description.

I am wondering how the fall and winter weather will be. If the last seven months have given any indication, we are in for a few more record-breaking days and possibly a few new words from the back of the meteorologist’s closet. I have one they can use… “Deep-poo”.


Derecho. (2012, 7 23). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. (2002). Retrieved 7 25, 2012, from :

Williams, J. (2005, 5 20). ‘Derechos’ are lines of windy thunderstorms. Retrieved from USA Today:



Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



About bigsmileu1

What good is living life if you don't share all the experiences, mistakes, and knowledge you have gained? I am a grandmother, a wife, a mother of two grown children, a Jr. High Teacher for almost two decades, an elementary principal and I want to share my experiences.

43 responses »

  1. Jamie, derecho in Spanish means “right”. A blow or a hit given with “mano derecha” (right hand) is heavier, more powerful and harder than the a hit given with a left hand. Perhaps the Meteorologists, counting on the fact that not many people are linguists, have come up with this Spanish word to diminish the force of the tornado and consequently not to frighten people.

    • Interesting that the meaning is actually different than the one the meteorologists are giving Derecho. And, yes, they could be using it as to not frighten people. But, I personally would want to know if there is a tornado whether the news is bad or good. I prefer not to have it covered up by a word. I love your awesome comment, Valentina. Thank you. 🙂

      • I’m glad someone already gave you the English translation cause I’m just now sitting down to read WordPress. FYI – left is izquierda just in case meteorologists need to name something and decide to keep using directions.

        Stuff like that happens here in AZ all the time. Sometimes people will slap together two Spanish words that don’t make any sense together. My favorite story my grandpa used to tell me was that when he worked for the city, they were going to name a street Borracho Street. He gently informed them that borracho meant a drunk man.

      • Too funny! What does izquierda mean? 🙂

  2. This is the kind of thing I would be looking up, too … but you did such a thorough job, I won’t need to! Thank you!
    The weather is just crazy, isn’t it. These droughts… just awful. Today, the area of Pennsylvania where I live is supposed to get clobbered by horrible storms this afternoon. Here we go again…….

    • Thanks. We had some huge storms come through early this morning. For us, this is good, because it is so very dry. Every bit of rain is a Godsend. Our trees have started losing their leaves due to the drought. I hope your storms are not severe. Blessings. 🙂

  3. Thank you Jamie. I totally agree with you about knowing facts as they are, good, bad, or frightening, without beating around the bush. Furthermore, the US is an English speaking country, why did the meteorologists feel compelled to use a word in the Spanish language? Just saying.

    • Good point, Valentina. Although, it probably doesn’t matter where the word orginated, English is a mixed bag of all sorts of languages. It is weird that suddenly they are shoving a new term down our throats. I am just musing as to why it is necessry. Maybe I should write to our weather reporters and ask. LOL! Enjoy the day! 🙂

      • Jamie, this is the way I see it: the US is a melting pot, but an English speaking country, that’s the way it was originated and English is the national language. All foreigners must learn the national language and speak it in public, in schools and a work to keep the nation one unity. All the foreigners can keep their original language at home and with their friends. That’s the way it is done in Europe. In schools we must learn foreign languages, as many as we can, empowering us to conduct business with the adjacent European countries and with the rest of the worlds. In Europe, every sign is written in at least 4 languages with the national language on top. I am Italian and speak 5 languages fluent and speak them anywhere it is necessary. In my home and with my friends, I speak whatever I want, but when I get on the phone to talk to the bank for ex. and I hear push #1 for Spanish and #2 for English, it irritates the hell out of me. It also irritates me greatly when some contractors bring on board of my design projects some Spanish speaking people who do not understand a word of English. The contractor do not speak Spanish and I end up translating everything for them, while I am hired by a client to do a design job. Speaking foreign languages is great, but in order for a society to function, the language must be one only. Sorry for the lengthy reply.

      • Valentina, I keep writing a reply and it does not want to post. Forgive me if you have been sent several differnt replies. I don’t know what the problem is with WordPress, tonight. 🙂

      • I have not seen any reply but this one.

      • I wrote like three replies and none of them ever showed up on my sceen that I had commented, so either I or wordpress did something wrong. Here is the gist of what I wrote…

        I hear ya, Valentina. The solutions they have come up with in Europe are interesting and could work here, too. Our only problem is getting our elected officials to write legislation to pass such a measure. That is an issue that surrounds many of America’s problems. Thanks for your honest comments. I love them! OXOX Jamie 🙂

      • Thank you Jamie for accepting my point of view.

      • Always, Valentina. 🙂

  4. The weather changing pattern is worrisome… I’m learning the Derecho. Thank you!

  5. A really interesting post! The first time I heard the term is after the big storm in the States that knocked out all the power.

    I like your new term 🙂

    • Thanks! I thought the new term was appropriate for the crazy weather we have been exerienceing. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a wonderful evening. 🙂

  6. Thanks for a very interesting and well researched post. I know some personalities who match this weather pattern. I now have a new name for them 🙂

  7. Interesting article and picture for that matter. I live out in California and I am wondering how our weather is going to be in the coming months as we have surely been experiencing some very mild weather for July. With the beginning of August just around the corner and usually the hottest month of the year I am really wondering if its going to remain with these mIld temps then get slammed in our Fall months with incredible heat.

    • Thank you. It is crazy weather this year. I hope you don’t experience incredible heat in the fall. It has been crazy hot here in Chicago this summer. It is hard to even contemplate what the rest of the year will look like weather wise. Thanks for commenting and visiting. Enjoy the evening. 😉

  8. That was I know what that term means. My daughter lives in the Chicago area and her plane was recently turned back 20 minutes outside the airport because of a severe storm…that was probably a Derecho….Diane

    • That is probably the one all the weather reporters have been reporting. We have had some stormy weather here in Chicago the last week or so. This is good. We have been very, very dry this summer. Sorry your daughter had such a rough flight. That stinks! Jamie 🙂

  9. Thanks for the post, as I too, was wondering were this term all of a sudden came from. I guess bizzare weather needs a new term…. 🙂

    • Thanks for validating that I am not the only one who noticed that Derecho is a new term for the nightly weather reports. And yes, the weather around here and in the world has been completely bonkers this year! I am nervous about what the winter holds for us. Yikes! 🙂

  10. I had been wondering the same thing…thanks for the information! 🙂

  11. You have The Derecho and I have the haboob.

    • Okay, fill me in…What is a haboob. It sounds like ha-boob. LOL! 😉

      • It’s a dust storm. But for some reason since we started having massive dust storms last summer the local news media has latched onto the Arabic term for dust storm which is haboob. I posted some nice pictures of the latest one from last Saturday. 🙂

      • I will check them out. I am still thinking the weather people need something new to describe this weird weather. Sounds like they are searching deperately for words to put together. Crazy stuff! 🙂

      • Did you send your pictures to Coast-to-Coast AM? I swear they have your photos posted on their web-site with Nicole as the contributer. Check it out.

      • Nah, that wasn’t me. The local Fox station keeps telling people to upload their photos. Seems like there are a lot of people that documented this storm. I don’t know that my photos would add much- at least locally.

        Is that the same Coast to Coast that used to be hosted by Art Bell?

      • Yes, Art Bell was who I first listened to years and years ago. He was the best! The photo looked so similar to those that you posted, I thought for sure they were yours. And then the name, too. I think your photos would be great on Coast-to-Coast. Think about it for the future. You might have monsoon photos! But seriously, I hope the storms are not severe and that you have a peaceful evening. Talk to you soon. Jamie 🙂

      • My uncle used to listen to Coast to Coast all the time when Art Bell hosted. I got him started on listening to an Australian podcast -Mysterious Universe. I think he still does listen to Coast to Coast once in awhile. I never thought about submitting photos there. I thought about submitting them to the media outlet I work for, but decided to just keep them for myself :).

      • I have never heard of Mysterious Universe. I will have to check them out. You should experiment with submitting. What do you have to lose? 😉

      • I should – I think I might just submit my photos somewhere this week.

      • Going to submit to The Weather Channel.

      • Excellent choice! Good luck! 🙂

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