A damp dispatch from D.C.I think I pay as much attention as the average person — well, maybe less, maybe even a lot less — but I confess upfront I had never heard of a derecho.
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
I think I pay as much attention as the average person — well, maybe less, maybe even a lot less — but I confess upfront I had never heard of a derecho.
If on a quiz show I had been asked to define “derecho” I would have said it’s German for what you hear back when you yodel.
I now know what a derecho is because I, along with the mid-Atlantic region, have been through one, a fast-moving — 700 miles in 12 hours — storm with freakishly high winds, like a tornado only not as photogenic.
I plowed through our office dictionaries hoping to find out how to pronounce “derecho” because if I mentioned it at a party I was sure to run into some amateur meteorologist who would guffaw at my mispronunciation and fail to see the humor when I spilled a drink on his head.
Even the massive 2,662-page Webster’s Third let me down, as did a whole bunch of lesser Webster’s lying around the office. The space between “derealization” and “deregulation” was conspicuously empty, although in one dictionary I found “derechazo,” defined as a close pass in a bullfight.
Maybe our dictionaries stink. Don’t take it up with me; take it up with management.
The storm barreled from the Midwest through Washington, D.C., Friday night leaving millions without power and killing at least 24 people in its path before it’s work was done. The most dangerous places to be seemingly were in bed or the car, traditional places of refuge or escape. The storm killed people in both places, heaving huge trees around with chilling accuracy.
As so often happens after a big storm, the next day was gloriously clear and sunny — and insufferably hot, humid and in the high 90s and expected to stay that way, with the possibility of the occasional destructive evening thunderstorm.
My daughter-in-law is in Afghanistan so my wife left for three weeks in Hawaii to look after our grandson and help our son pack up for his next transfer. When I call they are either at or en route to a breezy seaside seafood restaurant.
Meanwhile, I am filling garbage bags with food that has gone rotten and reeks so bad you can almost see the smell emanating from it. The news media urged us to check up on our elderly neighbors. I checked up on ours, she’s 91, and found her with a cooler of ice drinking a rum and soda. She offered me a bourbon. I accepted.
Life became much easier when our power was restored. I enjoyed my years in the Peace Corps with no electricity but I have no desire, no matter how hard the local power company keeps trying, to relive them.
But the real mystery of the storm, especially since this is Washington, is where are the global warming deniers? Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press’ science writer, wrote, “If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, scientists suggest taking a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.” Wildfires. Oppressive heat. Drought. Flooding, And “derechoes.”
Congress has a small caucus of deniers. There’s Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Come on, Jim. Even worse than Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? And Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who said, “It’s all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”
Like the rest of Congress, they’re on vacation.
If warming is a hoax, there are a lot of people in on the conspiracy. Normally hot and cold temperature records balance out in the course of a year.
Since Jan. 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the U.S. has set 40,000 hot temperature records; it has set fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records over the same time.
NOAA says to expect “larger, longer, more intense heat waves.” If you’re a global warming denier, be sure to bundle up.
McFeatters is a Scripps Howard News Service columnist.