A derecho – a dangerous, ferocious wall of wind – lashed through the Midwest on Monday, flipping cars, downing trees and knocking out power for thousands.
The derecho lasted several hours, traveling through Nebraska, Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois. The storm hit Chicago in the early afternoon, prompting the National Weather Service to warn that travel plans be altered and loose objects be secured.
The storm brought winds of 92 miles per hour near Dixon, about 100 miles west of Chicago, the National Weather Service reported, as it ripped through buildings, power lines and trees.
According to ABC Chicago, hundreds of thousands of people were without power due to the storms. Downed branches and trees, flooding, car crashes and road blockages were reported throughout Chicago and most of Illinois.
Trees around 70 to 80 years old were torn to shreds by the high winds in River Grove, ABC Chicago reported.
Derechoes are often referred to as inland hurricanes due to their hurricane-like conditions, in terms of ferocious wind and torrential rain.
“People should take these storms seriously,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Barjenbruch said. “These winds are incredibly strong.”
Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini called the derecho one of the worst weather events in the U.S. in 2020. “This is our version of a hurricane,” he added.
After tearing through Illinois, the strong part of the storm moved into north central Indiana by late afternoon.
In central Iowa, several people were injured and widespread property damage was reported in Marshall County after 100-mph winds, homeland security coordinator Kim Elder said.
“We had quite a few people trapped in buildings and cars,” Elder said on Monday. “We’re in life-saving mode right now.”
Elder said some people reported their cars flipping over from the wind; having power lines fall on them; and getting injured when hit by flying debris. Dozens of cars at one factory had their windshields blown out. Buildings also caught fire.
In the Des Moines area, more than 100,000 customers lost power as wind gusts reached 70 mph, the Weather Service said.
“It’s a lot of tree damage. Very high winds. It will be a significant effort to get through it all and get everybody back on,” said MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman Tina Hoffman.
Brianne Cummins, a hairstylist who runs her business out of her home, said she thought she was witnessing a tornado. She and a customer watched at 10:45 a.m. as the sky suddenly darkened and the wind picked up. The power went out.
A tree in Cummins’ backyard fell onto her neighbor’s garage, piercing its metal roof. Debris was strewn her streeet, which felt like the epicenter of the storm, Cummins said.
“It was like a movie,” Cummins said, “because we saw these branches lift up at once and then just (were) thrown down.”
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, tens of thousands also lost power. The city’s public safety spokesman, Greg Buelow, said there was “both significant and widespread damage throughout the city.”
In order to be classified as a derecho, the storm must include wind gusts of at least 58 mph and its wind damage swath must extend from 250 to 400 miles. The term “straight-line wind damage” sometimes is used to describe derecho damage.
“They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms,” Gensini said. “Once they get going like they did across Iowa, it’s really hard to stop these suckers.”
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY; Philip Joens, Andrea May Sahouri and Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Derecho rips through Chicago after lashing Iowa with 100-mph winds