Severe Weather Week: Derecho Lessons Learned


While many people may not have heard the term ‘derecho’ before last summer, the long-lived windstorms are more common than you might expect.

On average, Ohioans see about one derecho every three years.

As residents were reminded last summer, they can cause serious, widespread damage.
"The one that hit us on June 29 was one of the higher end storms. Not only was it higher end, it smacked us dead on,” said Seth Binau, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The line of storms originated in northern Illinois and traveled roughly 450 miles in about six hours. Wind gusts reached 80 to 100 miles per hour in some cases, knocking down trees and power lines.

It was devastation that was almost impossible to forecast.

"How do you convey, there's a 20 to 30 percent chance that a million people are going to lose power?” said Binau.

Gahanna resident Inna Slabodkin lost her electricity for eight days.

"I was just waiting for the power to get back!” said Slabodkin.

Slabodkin also operates “Sweets & Treats For All Occasions” out of her home. She said the lack of power hurt her business.

"I had to throw away a lot,” said Slabodkin.

Not far from Slabodkin's house is a stretch of Hamilton Road where the wind knocked down 14 wooden electric poles.

AEP has been replacing the wooden poles with more durable steel poles and now has 21 along Hamilton Road.

"We rehab portions of the system based on those areas that need it the most, and so it's an on-going program where we're doing that across the state,” said Pablo Vegas, AEP Ohio President.

AEP officials said it's easier for their crews to prepare when a storm is easy to predict, but for something like a derecho, it's all about responding as quickly as possible.

Slabodkin said she's now prepared. Her family bought a generator to avoid a similar situation.

"We'll be ready if it happens again, but I hope it doesn't.”

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