I have never been in a tornado myself but I’ve always heard that they make a sound like a train rushing at you. That implies a rather narrow path, localized on a track. When I was upstairs during the derecho, it sounded like 100 trains on a 100 tracks, a very broad band of sound, a particular roar I’ve never heard before. And derecho winds may be straight-line winds, but the tops of the trees were swirling in circles as if they were in a giant blender.
I guess we used to just call them bad thunderstorms but somehow they seem a little more lethal now that they have their own special name. Naming things signifies a higher level of threat. If the Weather service says “a severe thunderstorm could be heading your way,” I tend to be rather blasé about it. After all, I’ve been living through thunderstorms for 66 years. But when I’m told a derecho might be out to get me, it seems more personal.
Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org.