Is Southernmost Illinois Ready For Another Inland Hurricane?

Many residents of Southernmost Illinois remember a cataclysmic, historic act of Mother Nature that most people have never even heard about: the May 2009 “inland hurricane.” While a storm so large has failed to find its footing in the region ever since, scientists warn that man-made climate change could create strange weather patterns, or make those we’ve already experience all the more likely in the future. Are we ready for another one?

These storms aren’t called hurricanes when they don’t come in from the ocean. They are called Derechos. The 2009 Derecho was described as  mesoscale convective vortex, or MCV. It slammed into Kansas, Missouri, and southwestern Illinois. Some have even described the 2009 storm as a Super Derecho because of its size and scope. The storm brought reports of 39 tornadoes. Some hail brought by the storm was baseball-sized!

Damage in Carbondale reached an estimated three million dollars, and up to 34 buildings at Southern Illinois University were completely demolished by the storm. Damage to the university was estimated at over five million dollars. Communication was interrupted for weeks. Tens of thousands were left without power.

Even in northern Illinois, wind gusts reached a sustained 92 mph only 100 miles away from Chicago, putting one of the greatest cities in the U.S. in danger. Much of the damage caused by the storm blocked roads to Chicago.

Norman, Oklahoma Science Support Chief of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center Patrick March said, “It ramped up pretty quick…I don’t think anybody expected widespread winds approaching 100, 110 mph.”

MidAmerican Spokesperson Tina Hoffman said, “It’s a lot of tree damage. Very high winds. It will be a significant effort to get through it all and get everybody back on. It was a big front that went all the way through the state.”

Marshall County Homeland Security Coordinator Kim Elder has seen the damage that even smaller storms can do, one of which struck earlier this year. She said, “We had quite a few people trapped in buildings and cars. We’re in life-saving mode right now.”

The danger to life is serious. But most people only have to worry about damage to their property, which is difficult to avoid. Elder urged residents of vulnerable areas in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, etc., to purchase homeowners insurance with a property damage clause to maintain financial security when the worst happens, and speak to a property damage lawyer if insurance adjusters give them a hard time.

In many ways, a Derecho can become even more impactful than a hurricane — because it’s far more likely to stand still or hover. This can cause far more sustained impacts and increased damage potential. The winds of such a storm can expand for hundreds of miles.

Northern Illinois University Meteorology Professor Victor Gensini said, “They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms. Once they get going like they did across Iowa [and Southernmost Illinois], it’s really hard to stop these suckers.”

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