Jul 02 2012
[Click to enlarge image] That was an incredible natural event that blew through the DC area Friday night. The Washington Post ran an excellent article on it Saturday describing the event (which means half the region could not read it – doh!):
Between 9:30 and 11 p.m. Friday night, one of the most destructive complexes of thunderstorms in memory swept through the entire D.C. area. Packing wind gusts of 60-80 mph, the storm produced extensive damage, downing hundreds of trees, and leaving more than 1 million area-residents without power.
Racing along at speeds over 60 mph, the bowing line of thunderstorms formed west of Chicago around 11 a.m. and by midnight approached the Atlantic ocean.
Emphasis mine. It is amazing a storm that formed outside Chicago could hold itself together and grow, let alone move at that speed. The wonders of nature.
I woke up (outside DC in Northern VA) around 10:15 to an amazing light show and really phenomenal winds. We rarely see hurricane force winds here (usually the ‘canes that reach us have depleted back down to Tropical Storm force). It was something else. One of the few times we have woken the kids and rushed to the basement.
Saturday was a real experience as well. Very spotty cell service because the damage was so deep and wide. We had to drive to get the phones to work (and charge), but there was nobody to call! Even 9-11 service was down in many areas of the region. I went to check on my parents (both around 90 years old) and brought them to one of a handful of homes in our neighborhood to have power (and TV – really bizarre!). LJStrata tore off in search of a hotel room. She had to drive to discover if there were any available rooms. Around the 6th stop she succeeded, snagging the second to last room. By the time we had my parents checked in early Saturday afternoon, apparently all the hotel rooms were booked as far south as Richmond.
Many of us just roughed it the coolness of our basements as the outside temps hit 103° F.
The run on stores for ice and water was intense. We had water, just not hot water. A downside to those new energy efficient tankless water heater systems. We had the gas, but not the electricity to spark it!
The rule of the day on the roads was: “no left turns”. So many lights were out they decided to stop left hand turns and crossings at lights. Made for some adventurous trips. Thankfully I am a home grown local and know how to go everywhere on right hand turns only.
It was amazing to see how fragile our existence is without technology and power. Gas stations closed, refrigerators inaccessible (unless you wanted to lose a lot of food), limited water, etc. A good reminder of how much we have and why it would be much worse to be without cheap and available energy. We got a snapshot of Al Gore’s perfect world, and he can keep it.
Funniest moment was Sunday morning when I was checking on my parent’s house and then scouting a place for breakfast (decided to stick with McDonalds since it was fast and cheap). At 0800 the local Starbucks had lines out the doors as the caffeine addicts gathered to get their morning jolt (I drink a lot of coffee, but was OK with a few hour delay).
We were lucky. We were only out of power less than 48 hours, and our food kept. Too many will be out until mid to late week. One story we heard from Reston Town Center was horrible. The place was closed off early and was without power last we heard Sunday evening. We were told of elderly people taking their walkers to the swimming pools to scoop up water to flush toilets. My hat off to their ingenuity and perseverance, but there really needs to be a plan in place for these long duration outages that ensure the elderly and infirm are taken care of. It is why we did not waste a hotel room on ourselves, but tried to leave it for those in need. Too many people who could rough it out were in air conditioned hotels, while those in true need roughed it out.
Not sure how to address this. I don’t want a nanny-state solution. But in high rises, it might be a good idea to know who may be in need during extended power outages, and work with local hotel and restaurant owners to set up a plan to help deal with them. For example, my parent’s house was cooler than hours, but they have a well and needed power for water. So we could rough it out, they could not due to lack of water.
Anyway, nature put on one helluva show. And reminded humanity how puny it is in the grand scheme of things. We are adaptive and bright, but not All Powerful.
Update: As I said, for those still without power it is rough going. But it is always nice to learn you have neighbors you never knew you had.