What was that?
Pocahontas County residents can add a new word to their vocabulary: derecho.
That's what meteorologists call the type of storm that howled through the area Friday evening, toppling trees, downing utility poles, removing roofs and rolling hay bales.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the storm started in Indiana Friday afternoon, "carving a path of destruction 600 miles long. Wind gusts approaching 100 miles per hour were reported as the storm moved from Indiana to Ohio."
In West Virginia and Virginia, NOAA weather observers reported wind speeds topping out at 87 miles per hour.
According to the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, "A derecho (pronounced deh-RAY-cho) is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. Although a derecho can produce destruction similar to that of tornadoes, the damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath. As a result, the term 'straight-line wind damage' sometimes is used to describe derecho damage."
"By definition, if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles and includes wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour or greater along most of its length, then the event may be classified as a derecho," NOAA adds.
"Derecho winds are the product of what meteorlogists call 'downbursts,' the Storm Prediction Center adds. "A downburst is a concentrated area of strong wind produced by a convective downdraft. Downbursts have horizontal dimensions of about four to six miles and may last for several minutes... Derechos occur when meteorological conditions support the repeated production of downbursts within the same general area. The 'downburst clusters' that arise in such situations may attain overall lengths of 50 to 60 miles and persist for several tens of minutes."
Within downbursts there are sometimes smaller pockets of intense wind called "microbursts." Within these, still smaller areas-about 50 to 150 yards-of extreme wind can develop, called "burst swaths." The damage produced by burst swaths can resemble that caused by a tornado.
NOAA's summary of Friday's storm noted that some areas reported winds and damage similar to an EF-1 tornado.
Just as the storm's strength surprised many, the swiftness of its arrival caught many off guard.
Within hours of forming in the northwest corner of Indiana, Friday's storm covered the Mid-Atlantic from North Carolina to Maryland.
Most of Pocahontas County and the surrounding area had little warning that such a powerful storm was coming its way. Around 7 p.m. Friday evening, the National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning stating that a "dangerous storm" packing 80-mile-per-hour winds, cloud-to-ground lighting and quarter-sized hail was affecting communities along a 50-mile stretch of the I-79 corridor. The warning advised people in the storm's path to take shelter. That warning also indicated the storm would track through northern Pocahontas County, as well as Webster and Randolph counties. However, the storm grew rapidly, and by 8:30 p.m. it had stretched south to bear down on the whole of Pocahontas County, as well as much of Greenbrier County.
Bartow weather observer Jason Bauserman said that as he watched television news broadcasts of the storm's development, the day after, he was shocked by what he saw.
"I've never seen anything quite like it," he said. "Once it entered West Virginia, the storm doubled or tripled in size, as it crossed, to pretty well encompass the whole state."
Bauserman said he has seen ice storms do as much tree damage, but it was the first time he had seen a wind storm wreak such havoc on trees and power lines.
"These were as strong of winds and as much damage as I've ever seen, tree-wise," said Bauserman.
The storm and its resulting, wide-spread power outages come at a time when the county and state are seeing record temperatures. Bartow recorded a record high of 89 degrees the day of the storm. Temperatures elsewhere were in excess of 90 degrees, and the intense heat continued through the weekend.
Speaking on Monday, Bauserman noted that the county's power outages may outlast those that resulted from the worst natural disaster to strike the area in recent memory: the flood of 1985.
"During the flood of '85, we were out of phone and power for three days," he said. "This might be the longest time that we've had power out."
"We're so dependent on electric that people just can't function," he added. "A lot of jobs and work have been probably been lost without the power."