W. MI marks 20 years since deadly derecho came ashore


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday marks 20 years since a devastating derecho hit Michigan, killing four people and injuring 153 others.

Derecho is the Spanish word for “straight.” In weather terms, it’s a fast-moving line of thunderstorms that leaves a large swath of significant wind damage in its wake.

During the early morning hours of May 31, 1998, the deadly derecho pummeled West Michigan with wind estimates as high as 130 mph in Grand Haven and Walker.

The derecho damaged hundreds of homes across Michigan, toppled campers in Grand Haven, and caused numerous power outages. At one point, every stoplight between Grand Rapids and Baldwin was out, according to Storm Team 8 Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen.

However, the toll would have been much worse if the storms came through in the afternoon, when more people are awake and outside.

The Storm Prediction Center says the derecho of 1998 is one of the top thunderstorm events in world history, leaving a path of damage spanning South Dakota to the East Coast.

Check out Bill’s Blog to read about his visit to the small town where this devastating derecho all started.

>>App users: Watch 1998 derecho special: “Blown Apart, Drawn Together”

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