Jul 02 2012

What A Storm! [And No, It Was Not Caused By AGW]

Published by at 9:53 am under AJStrata's GUT,Global Warming

[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.

14 responses so far

14 Responses to “What A Storm! [And No, It Was Not Caused By AGW]

  1. Dan Kurt says:

    The storm you and your family experienced is called a Derechoe.

    Dan Kurt

  2. pilgrim1949 says:

    Another NoVa resident living west of the Emerald City Of Odds who fortunately maintained power for the most part (but landline still down)…. and was musing today during lunch about our plight if the GreenieWeenie wet dream of all-electric cars was realized.

    Talk about an additional “inconvenient truth” moment!

  3. Mata says:

    Good to hear you and family are faring well, AJ. Being raised in tropical Florida, where squall lines and the drama of the lightning capital of the Americas is common, it’s sort of a mixture of fascination to watch Mother Nature at work, and humility at our vulnerability.

    It takes times like these to demonstrate how dependent upon technology we have become. It doesn’t take long to realize we take much for granted when losing power for an extended time. It becomes even more difficult to do simple things, like go to a local store, when their cash registers require power and can’t be over ridden like the ol’ days when they were manual. (and people could actually count return change backwards… LOL)

    To your solutions and nanny state, one must first need to address the problem… a decentralization of our US power grid. To show you how vulnerable we really are, there are only a few central grids that can affect widespread areas if they are knocked out. NPR has a larger overview of the three major grids while Geni has a larger breakdown.

    Thus the reason that Newt, ever labeled the lunatic, was warning the nation that EMPs pose one of the greatest national security threats… whether naturally occurring from solar flares, or caused by small nukes detonated over central grids. An easy way to knock the nation down to it’s knees is to cut the power and effectively stop all means of defense, and daily survival as we know it. Extended power outages, and the population will resort to desperate means, imploding from within. This is not a country where current generations are savvy to basic survival under adverse conditions… except to steal from someone else.

    What I’ve always envisioned is not necessarily more local grids, but individual home upgrades to make each one as self sufficient as possible, not drawing from the grid save for overage amounts needed. This would include everything from feasible aternative energy for each home as applicable to climate, to owning a generator for the moment when you lose power. There’s interesting designs for mini-nuke power for homes… which presents it’s own problems in many ways. But you get the drift.

    But a reasonable start is to equip your home with a generator. It’s just an electrical wiring to the main panel, enabling a generator to feed the panel. You may not be able to be as generous in your power usage as normal, but during emergencies, people tend to be more conscious about their wattage draw and conserve. Those that live OTG (off the grid) are used to counting watts daily. A generator gives you the ability to run the basics you’d need… a well pump, sparking the gas or propane fueled heater and appliances, etc.

    Another option for heat (and emergency cooking) is a woodstove. Mine is great for heating the entire house, however my plumbing in my basement really need to be wrapped in insulation. Right now the furnace is down there, keeping it warm enough for the pipes. But when I run the woodstove, the repercussion is the pipes may freeze. Always sumpthin’, right?

    This already home self-sufficiency already goes on, with some making arrangements with the local grid supplier to purchase back their unused power from their solar panels. So this needn’t be a federal mandate, or accomplished via government. However government can certainly encourage (there’s that “tax/penalty” type word again… LOL) such activity with tax incentives on a federal and local level. It would be a job boost, with private contractors retrofitting homes, selling product, and making it affordable for those who aren’t Al Gore.

    What remains dangerous is a large central grid because it takes only a few targets to cripple a nation. Thus the obvious reasons that a satellite solar grid in space to supply the nation is a security nightmare, So what it comes down to is an almost lost art – individual self reliance… make your own abode as self sustainable as possible, Then the worries and risks are reduced…

    … until, of course, you’re the only one in the ‘hood with simple amenities and you’re attacked for the basics by those who aren’t similarly equipped.

  4. Layman says:

    Glad to hear you and your family are fine. I have inlaws in the McLean area and they too were in awe of the power of nature.

    And there are those out there that really think we can influence/control it! Delusional.

  5. AJStrata says:

    Hey Layman, I am actually a Mcleanite (from the days before it was ridiculously wealthy).

    If you want a modern horror story, google Reston Town Center

  6. Redteam says:

    “but individual home upgrades to make each one as self sufficient as possible”

    Just have Congress pass an APA (Affordable Power Act) and we can make everyone buy a generator to power their homes in emergencies and if they don’t they can pay a tax. Kinda like buying Power Insurance or something.
    We could even pattern it on the ACA (Affordable Care Act).

    or something…

  7. DrDave says:

    Wow a terrible storm that started in Chicago and wiped out DC, reminds me of something.

  8. pilgrim1949 says:


    Maybe those who fail to recognize the drift of fragrance from the Windy City to the City of Windbags could be classified as….

    Glow-bull Smarming Deniers

  9. AJStrata says:


    “Windy City to the City of Windbags”

    Nice one!

  10. Mata says:

    Wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if they tried, RT. But at least they can’t dress that pig up in a Commerce Clause suit. And I’d say that the public is very astute to tax powers of Congress these days.

    The problem is, I’m not sure I see much dissatisfaction from most of the nation about the taxes. i.e. Dems and liberal voters will always be okay with the expansion of central government and taxes. Until a conservative responsibility for self attitude retakes the majority of voters, we’re gonna have a rough time in this.

    DrDave and pilgrim… LOL

  11. Mordecai Subaru says:

    EMP weapon
    You have just the taste of what could soon happen
    No power for months.
    Don’t want to be so gloomy, but it would be nice if obama wasn’t doing everything in his power to give iran the time to achieve a nuclear warhead.
    If I wanted to destroy my own country, I’d have to be shrewd.
    Obama is shrewed. He does everything calculated to fail but calculated to not awaken the sleeping electorate.

  12. Redteam says:

    “Until a conservative responsibility for self attitude retakes the majority of voters, we’re gonna have a rough time in this.”
    and the problem is we have Romney running, the antithesis of what we need at this time. He is going to be very non-combative, almost as much so as McCain was. Almost as if he doesn’t want to win.

  13. Dave J says:

    It was not too bad for us down near the Shenandoah as we were only out of power for just over 30 hours with very little damage. I have relatives up on the Blue Ridge that just got their power back up late this afternoon 6/3. They are hardy folk though and know well how to deal with such minor inconveniences.