An innocent enough Spanish word. Sometimes it means right, as in the opposite of left. In other contexts it can mean straight or directly.
It wasn’t until this summer that I learned derecho has another meaning, a meteorological one. According to Wikipedia, a derecho is “a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind-storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can carry hurricanic or tornadic force and can deliver torrential rains and perhaps flash floods as well as strong winds.”
In mid-June, a derecho had its eyes on Michigan.
You’ll recall that Michigan lost almost its entire apple crop last year to a devastating late-spring freeze.
Growers, packers and officials I talked to in person and on the phone during the past year put a very brave face on that disaster, and vowed to come back stronger than ever in 2013.
But at the back of your mind you had to wonder: What if it happens again?
That’s precisely what was on my mind when I gathered my nerves and made the call to Michigan shippers the day after the derecho.
Yes, there was a lot of rain, said Scott Swindeman, vice president and sales manager of Deerfield, Mich.-based Applewood Orchards Inc.; and Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.
There were sustained winds of 50 mph, and some gusts up to 90 mph, Armock said.
And ... the crop’s never looked better.
“I think we probably dodged a bullet,” Armock said. “The big impact would have been hail, and I didn’t hear of any hail.”
The winds knocked some apples off trees, but in a sign that Mother Nature may be repaying Michigan with some good luck, some apples needed knocking off, Armock said.
As for the rain, Swindeman said, it was just what growers needed.
“It will make them grow a little bigger,” he said. “It was a nice event for us.”
The nice news just kept coming for the Michigan apple industry.
On June 19, the state’s annual fruit Guesstimate put the upcoming crop at about 26.3 million bushels. That’s a big crop, but Armock’s convinced it could easily be bigger — maybe a record.
It’s looking like Michigan shippers will have an entirely different “problem” this season: finding homes for all those apples. It’s the kind of problem they’re licking their chops over.