Sunday, July 01, 2012

Aftermath: The Derecho

When I woke this morning, the clock said 6:40. I glanced out the window in time to see a red streak in the yard. I reached for my glasses and hopped up.

The fox was beautiful and majestic as it pranced through the yard. It passed through quickly, and I was unable to grab my camera.

I wiped the sleep from my eyes, drank a glass of water, and hurried into old clothes. I walked outside. To one side of me, I heard the far-off roar of a generator, while behind me I heard the distant whirr of a chainsaw.

Someone was already up and cutting down felled trees.

The siren or alarm that has been sounding for two days continued to wail, too. I haven't been able to place it, but have concluded it must be someone's house alarm. Perhaps they are out of town and the power outage set it off. Or maybe they had a tree limb go through a window. In any event, it is a strange backdrop for the surreal disaster area that the Virginia Derecho of June 29 left in its wake.

As I did yesterday, I set out early to pick up limbs and sticks. Yesterday I filled up my garden cart five times with limbs and sticks. It took me about 10 minutes to fill the cart, and an hour of this work out in the intense heat and humidity is all I can manage. Between my asthma and my high blood pressure, not to mention back problems, the work leaves me feeling weak and light-headed.

I have decided that I will do this for an hour every morning until I have done all I can. The large limbs I will have to leave for my husband, as I cannot lift them, but he has his hands full and it will be a while before he can turn his attention to our yard.

So I stoop and bend, pick up a limb, rise, toss it into the cart. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This morning I did this for an hour, and filled my cart five times once more.

I am glistening with sweat when my husband comes home from work.

Yesterday he was in the city. As a battalion chief with the Roanoke City Fire-EMS, he had a big job. With so many trees down, and people in need of help, the first responders had a lot going on.

On the farm, we have trees across fences, and that must be the first priority since the house is okay. Cattle will roam, and they must be fenced in. So he came home and changed from his fireman's gear to his farmer's gear, and he is off working on fence.

Fortunately, yesterday while he was at work one of his cousins came out and fixed up the worst holes so that the cattle could not get out into the road. But the fence must be in good repair at all times. It is one of the important parts of raising cattle.

We have also been fortunate to keep our electricity. The lights went out for a brief period during the height of the storm, but they have stayed on. The internet has been spotty but basically reliable, considering the state of emergency, and I have been pleased with it.

I have checked on friends and neighbors; all that I have spoken to are fine and making out. I am worried about one elderly friend but so far she is all right. Most of my friends and family have electricity and I am grateful for that.

The loss of electricity is a big deal. People are very power-dependent and this should serve as warning. I hope folks buy generators and keep gasoline on hand.

The upcoming week is looking like one that will be quite different for many people. Some folks will not be able to go to work because their offices will not have electricity. Many people are irritable because of the heat. I imagine some folks are starting to get a little stinky, too, because they cannot take a shower.

Food businesses that lost power worry me, because I fear many will not do the right thing and throw the food out but instead sell it anyway. I will not be anxious to eat out for a while, I think.

I see on Facebook that people without power are tossing their food from their refrigerators and freezers now. I imagine what was in the fridge was bad as of Saturday since most power went out around 9 p.m. Friday night; the freezers, if unopened, might last for three or four days but beyond that, certainly not.

Some places are not expected to be reconnected to the power grid until next Saturday - a full week away.

I am so grateful that I have come through this with what seems to me to be relatively minor damage. We were lucky the house was unhurt, that only fences are down, and that the electricity has stayed on all of this time. I feel for the folks who are without power.

The county has set up a cooling center at Lord Botetourt; I assume it is in place again today but I am not certain. Also, they have asked folks who are on public water to conserve water. If their pumping stations are not functioning, they may be having trouble keeping water in the tanks.

This weather event will be one for the record books. I hope I never experience it again.


  1. I hope none of us ever experiences a windstorm like this again. Like you, we were lucky. Damage was minimal and, while our power flickered a lot, it never went out completely.

  2. So glad you've got power! Good luck to you on the clean up. I di the same thing after our LA hurricanes: set myself aside an hour or so everyday and eventually got it all done. You remember the old saying about How to eat an elephant?... One bite at a time! Stay cool if possible!

  3. Sorry you are having to spend time out in the heat picking up around the yard. Keep in mind that there is no hurry to get it picked up. It will be there tomorrow, and this heat is not good for anyone to be out in. We were lucky as well.

  4. They say we'll get our power back on July 5, so a few more days of this, picking up branches included.

  5. Wow. I'd never heard of a Derecho, but apparently have experienced it. We had something like that years ago in Raleigh that came up out of nowhere and had damage similar to yours. We were sure it was a tornado, but the weather service called it straight-line winds. Whatever it was, it was scary. So glad your house is okay and that you have electricity. You are blessed.

  6. We lost our power and there's no hope getting it back on till at least Friday. But two little boys got killed when a tree fell on them at Parvin State Park. I'm trying to keep things in perspective.


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