Derecho Devil

So where was I? Oh yes. Super models and librarians. Little did I know at the time that our fun little power outage was, in fact, the start of a devastating Derecho, otherwise known as a badass witch that knocks the Mid-Atlantic region on its keister.

Experiencing it was incredible. It was a thunderstorm joined with an electrical storm, a panoramic and silent electrical event in the sky, as if God had plugged in a strobe light with a loose wire. All around us, lightning flashed; thin purple forks that ran sideways along the horizon, thick white crooked bands that struck earth with incredible beauty and power. For an hour, night turned into a flickering daylight that revealed bending trees and lashing rain.

So this what a Derecho is, and what it feels like to be in a real summer storm. For those of you who had never even heard of such a thing, it seems that a Derecho is a straight-line wind storm with accompanying rain and lightning. It’s a Mid West creation that usually heads toward the East, a wind storm that gallops quickly and digs up just about everything in its path thanks to winds that would make a tornado or hurricane proud.

In this case, the 2012 Derecho put maybe 5 million people in the dark and created at least millions of dollars of damage, took 22 lives and ruined countless more. It was a real storm that in essence ran a successful blitz on the state of Virginia, and woke residents up to the reality that yes, our emergency services pretty much lack fortitude, appropriate planning and preparation. In other words, there ain’t much our emergency services can do in an emergency. We knew this about snow, and have lived through the winter storms and impassable roads. Now we know it about the summer. With millions of residents in the dark, power companies were unable to respond quickly enough, or at all. In many areas, the 911 number went dead for days and the communication with residents was at best non existent. On the eve of the Fourth of July weekend, officials were unable to deal with the problem of millions of people sweltering in 100+ degree weather.

Fortunately for us, we were prepared with flashlights, snacks, water and board games. And though the resulting two days without power were a sweaty inconvenience, it served as a timely reminder that being prepared means not putting a whole lot of faith in the companies that are paid to provide that type of service. Our solution? We packed up the kids and took off for the mountains, where it was cool, beautiful and largely empty of people. For us, luckily, this Derecho Devil delivered an amazing example of the power of nature at the price of a few sleepless nights.

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