Today marks the 13th anniversary of one of the most significant severe weather outbreaks in Upstate NY history....the July 1995 Super Derecho. A "derecho" is a meteorological term used to describe a severe convective wind storm that results in damaging straight-line winds across a large area both spatially and temporally, usually including one or more reports of high end severe wind gusts (at or above 75 mph). A derecho can be classified as one of three types....a serial derecho, a progressive derecho, or a hybrid derecho. The July 1995 event can most accurately be classified as a "progressive" derecho, which means it was associated with a small line of thunderstorms that took on a "bow echo" configuration and traveled for hundreds of miles. The July 1995 Super Derecho cut a swath of wind damage that spanned approximately 800 miles from the upper peninsula of Michigan to southern New England, with the most severe damage observed across southern Ontario and northern New York. Tragically, there were seven fatalities as a result of the storm.
The Super Derecho initially formed across the eastern U.P. of Michigan around 10:00 in the evening on Friday, July 14th. It then raced off to the east southeast at an average speed of 67 mph, arriving in New York state between 4:00 and 4:30 in the morning on Saturday, July 15th. Winds estimated to be 100 mph or greater occurred at several points along a band from Jefferson and western St. Lawrence Counties through the Adirondack Mountain region. Of the five deaths and 11 injuries associated with the derecho event in New York, most were the result of trees falling on campers in the Adirondacks. Over 30 campers and hikers in the area had to be removed by helicopter since their paths out of the forest were blocked by thousands of fallen trees. According to the New York Dept. of Conservation about 900,000 acres of forest were damaged in the state and the value of the loss of timber was estimated to be over 200 million in 1995 U.S. dollars.
In the more populated areas of central and eastern New York almost 190 million in 1995 U.S. dollars in damage was done to structures and vehicles. Many mobile homes were overturned and numerous homes and businesses were damaged. Many vehicles were damaged or destroyed by falling trees. At the Syracuse Airport a wind gust of 76 mph was measured at 5:30 AM EDT as the storm gust front passed through and a parked Boeing 727 jet plane was blown into another commercial jet plane at the airport terminal. Less than an hour later a gust of 77 mph was recorded at the Albany airport. Several hundred thousands of people lost electrical power due to the powerful derecho winds.
The July 1995 Super Derecho was certainly an event to remember for many Upstate NY residents....but here in the Southern Tier we were fortunate as most of the activity traveled off to our north. What we did not escape from, however, was the oppressively hot and humid conditions that occurred south of the derecho's path. As the storms entered the St. Lawrence Valley around 4:00 in the morning, the temperature at the Binghamton Airport was still a sultry 79F with an unusually high dewpoint temperature of 76F.....resulting in one of the most uncomfortable nights that has ever been observed in this part of the country. The outflow boundary (rush of rain-cooled air at the leading edge of a thunderstorm complex) associated with the derecho did eventually make its way through the area, knocking the temp/dewpoint spread down to a "comfy" 73/68 by 8:00 in the morning, but a daily record high of 96F was set later that afternoon, and the temperature at nearby Elmira soared to a sweltering 101F! Between the severe weather and the heat that followed....July 15, 1995 is certainly a day to remember in Upstate NY.