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Southern New England hit by a rare derecho, NWS confirms

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The unusually powerful storm in Southern New England last week, October 7, 2020, was a rare derecho, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed. The storm killed at least two people, left more than 200 000 customers without power, caused damage to a 515 km (320 miles) stretch, and recorded a wind gust of 109 km/h (68 mph) — the region's highest daily gust for the month of October. The storm ranks as one of the strongest severe weather events in the United States this year.

On October 7, a sudden storm struck New York and New England, resulting in two fatalities and major wind damage. More than 200 damaging wind reports were received from New York to Massachusetts.

Power was cut to more than 200 000 customers. National Grid spokeswoman Virginia Limmiatis said the area has not experienced an outage this widespread in more than a decade.

"The last time we would’ve seen 200 000-plus customers out and that widespread damage, probably was back in 2008 with the ice storm."

Widespread wind gusts between 80 and 95 km/h (50 and 60 mph) were registered down the Mohawk Valley into the Greater Capital District, with a 107 km/h (67 mph) wind gust measured at the Albany International Airport.

This ranks as the highest gust for the month of October with records dating back to 1987. "The wind speed did break a record for the day," confirmed Mike Evans of the NWS Albany.

"It’s definitely an unusual event. It would be a little bit more typical to see something like this in the summer, but really, to see this at any point in the year, I would consider it fairly unusual."

Two people lost their lives as a result– one man died when a tree collapsed into his car, while another person was crushed by a fallen tree.

After a reanalysis of a 515 km (320) mile long damage swath and multiple gusts over 120 km/h (70 mph), the NWS officially classified the event as a derecho.

In Southern New England, only three derechos have been recorded in 25 years, making the recent derecho a rare one in the area. In July 1995, a derecho impacted a stretch from Ontario through southeastern Massachusetts.

According to NOAA, a derecho is a "widespread, long-lived windstorm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms."

This weather event frequently happens in the summer months, especially in the Midwest where the combination of atmospheric instability and wind shear can result in fast-moving line of storms. 

NWS acknowledged that the derecho "ranks as one of the strongest severe weather events for 2020," in the United States.

Featured image credit: NASA Terra/MODIS

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