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A powerful windstorm rips down power lines - 4 million households without power, 14 dead

Staff writers
June 30, 2012 — A powerful line of thunderstorms, partly fueled by a historic heat wave, brought widespread wind damage, known as a "derecho", from Indiana all the way to the mid-Atlantic coast on Friday.

The derecho spanned across 1000 km, and lasted 13 hours in total
The derecho spanned across 1000 km, and lasted 13 hours in total

The fierce line of storms began as a cluster of thunderstorms in the Chicago area late Friday morning. By early afternoon, it quickly took on a more ominous "bow" shape on the radar over northern Indiana, signaling a powerful surge of winds -- leaving millions of people without power to combat the thermostat-popping temperatures.

Numerous trees and branches were downed across north-central Indiana. Fort Wayne International Airport recorded gusts of up to 146 km/h. By mid-afternoon, reports came in of widespread tree and power line damage, as well as siding being blown off homes.

Surrounding counties reported radio towers blown down and trucks rolled over by the catastrophic straight-line winds. At least two buildings completely lost their roofs in Richmond, Indiana.

The storms continued to soar across western Ohio, where gusts reached a violent 135 km/h in the northwest. The entire state of Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and parts of New Jersey were in a continued state of emergency Saturday.

Wind gusts of over 97 km/h were observed in the Cincinnati metro area. After 5 p.m. local time, the storms brushed northern portions of Kentucky as well.

Just over an hour later, the menacing storms pushed across the Ohio River into West Virginia. Nearly half the state was without power Saturday, with temperatures nearing the mid-40 degree Celsius mark. Downed power lines interrupted the service's of Pinterest, Instagram, Netflix, and Heroku -- all based out of northern Virginia.

Over 400,000 customers lost power in D.C. and the Maryland suburbs where reports came in that officials have created the equivalent a hurricane restoration effort to their system.

Power lines down, reports say until mid-to-late next week
Power lines down, reports say until mid-to-late next week

The final reports of the derecho came in around 1 a.m. local time, where it was crossing southern New Jersey. Gusts were reported to have topped the 130 km/h mark. 

As of latest reports, there have been 12 fatalities due to falling trees throughout several states. 

Derecho is defined as a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds. The derecho continued across the Ohio River Valley to mid-Atlantic states for 1000 km, in 13 hours. 

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