When a derecho barreled over the eastern United States in June 2012, the impacts were severe. That powerful storm brought hurricane-force winds to numerous states, killed 22 people, and knocked out electric power for millions. So people were bracing for the worst when a fierce line of storms was bearing down on the same area on June 13, 2013.
While the 2013 storm was not as powerful or destructive as the previous year’s event, the National Weather Service said it still qualified as a “low-end derecho.” Over a 15-hour period, the storm system generated 376 reports of damaging thunderstorm wind. In one part of Indiana, a storm cell brought winds of 90 to 100 miles (140 to 160 kilometers) per hour across an area seven miles long and three miles wide, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of the storm system passing over the eastern United States on June 13 , 2013. While it is not possible to make out the band where thunderstorms were strongest because of cloud cover, a composite of radar images reveals a bow-shaped band of storms—called a bow echo—propagating east at 47 miles (75 kilometers) per hour.
- Earthsky (2013, June 13) What you need to know about derechos. Accessed June 14, 2013.
- Weather Underground (2013, June 14) Colorado's Costliest Fire in History Kills 2; Severe Thunderstorms Pound Mid-Atlantic. Accesed June 14, 2013.
- Baltimore Sun (2013, June 14) Minor derecho, tornado outbreak cap active week of weather. Accesed June 14, 2013.
- Terra - MODIS
But then the heat arrived. Temperatures soared above 100°F (38 °C) in Denver on June 11, the earliest it has ever reached triple digits. That heat, along with gusty winds and drought-parched forests, came together to produce the Black Forest fire, the most destructive the state has ever seen. By the afternoon of June 13, the fire had destroyed 360 homes and damaged 14 others. The Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado’s most destructive prior to the Black Forest fire, destroyed 346 homes.
The Black Forest fire began on June 11 in a densely-wooded area north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On June 12, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites captured these images of the fire about 20 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of Colorado Springs. The Terra image (top) was collected at 12:05 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time, and the Aqua image (lower) was collected at 1:40 p.m. MDT. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected the unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires.
According to firefighting agencies in Colorado, the Black Forest fire had spread through 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares) by the afternoon of June 13. Hundreds of people on the ground and numerous water-dropping helicopters and planes were fighting the blaze, but it remained zero percent contained on the afternoon of June 13. More than 38,000 people had been forced to evacuate their homes. Tens of thousands more people coped with elevated air pollution levels because of the fires.
- NASA (2013, June 13) Western US Fires Flare Up. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- National Interagency Fire Center (2013, June 1) National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook (pdf). Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center (2013, June 12) Black Forest Fire Accessed June 3, 2013.
- U.S. Drought Monitor (2013, June 11) Colorado. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- Weather Underground (2013, June 12) Record head fuels destructive fires in drought-baked Colorado. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- Terra - MODIS
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