Monday, September 10, 2012

They Call the Wind Derecho

siding nail, or shrapnel
Derecho means "straight" in Spanish, at least so I read, but when used here in the USA, meteorologically at least, it means a straight-line, high speed windstorm. 

And a derecho here at the top of the hill where I live means wind strong enough to blow rainwater through the infinitesimal gap between a window glass and frame. The weather reporters for the southwestern Missouri area reported sustained winds in spots of 80-mph last Friday afternoon as a storm front moved through west-to-east. 

I've been around race cars and low-flying aircraft, and judging from the debris sailing past our house, I'd say that might be a low estimate for this hilltop. And derecho continued for about 15-20-minutes. 

So far we've counted about $6,000-$10,000 damage, including roof, siding, water damage inside, and back door to the garage, and the larger of the garage doors meant for vehicles. Our house faces east. The storm came from the west. After the back door failed, we were lucky to loose only one of the vehicle doors on the garage. My wife's 1963 Thunderbird was hit by the door and suffered some relatively minor damage. 

However -- and hold onto your hats for this one -- we drove up just as the storm began. My wife raced to open the van door so that I could let down the wheelchair lift. She then ran inside quickly with with the toddler. She first put the toddler in a safe place, the choice being the walk-in ceramic-wall shower. Then we closed doors and windows, laid down towels and blankets to absorb water, and then my wife ran outside to retract the wheelchair lift, and close the van doors. 

In those few minutes the wind had reached a high enough velocity to cause the open van door, by then better to be described as a sail, to torque sufficiently to twist the pillar on which the door was mounted. In fact, it may have warped the van's body since it is no longer possible to open the back doors and one of the front power windows is bound tightly in its frame. We're going to need a Kansas Jack, although that miracle device is meant for uni-bodies, I think. Our van is body-on-frame built.

We've covered the T-bird. We're closing the door on the van with a bungee cord. And we've been able to tarp the roof and the garage doors. Now we're awaiting the insurance adjusters. There's the thousand dollar deductible to scratch up, but all in all, I know it could've been far worse. For example, we use a magnet-latched hanging screen on a sliding patio door to allow the dogs access to the back yard. If we hadn't arrived home in time to close that west-facing door, we probably would've come home to a living room with the front windows and door blown out and a seriously damaged hardwood floor.

As noted, the weather reporters say the top winds were measured at 80-mph, but I think on our little hilltop the speed might have been higher. I've been near but never hit by a tornado, and, yes, they do sound like trains. However, I've always had the ignorant opinion that a hurricane, in a properly constructed building, would be endurable. I do know that a category five hurricane has winds at 157-mph+, twice as much as our house endured. And those hurricane winds last for hours rather than minutes. 

That means if I move away from tornadoes and derechos, I won't be moving to hurricane alley.
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