DERECHO Rhymes with JERICHO–Living without Power for 10 Days in WV

There are many times when you just have no words for what you’ve been through. This is not one of those times for me.
We got hit, square-on, by the derecho storm that ran through much of the northeast on June 29, 2012. Here’s a NASA clip on Youtube of what it looked like:
It’s basically like a huge wall of wind…a land hurricane, if you will. It just goes through snapping trees and power lines at random. Almost everyone we know lost at least one tree or many branches. Many lost more.
But shockingly, most homes were spared. I think all the people were spared, except those around DC who died in the sweltering heatwave that came afterward. 
I was watering our garden when the sky turned yellowish. Just about the time my parents and husband got inside, the wind was picking up. Then it started swirling leaves everywhere. 
I went on the front porch and thought I heard that infamous sound of a train in the distance–you know, the one that shouts “tornado!” We got the kids in the basement and the dog in the house. Sad to say, the cats were out running for shelter…but don’t worry, they made it fine!
Once it was over, we breathed a sigh of relief…until we noticed we had some trees down. One of our white pines (many pines were wrecked, probably because of their softer wood) had a couple huge limbs down. 
We had a smaller-sized oak down on the outskirts of our woods. Funny thing is, it fell directly between two healthy trees. And the pine didn’t fall on the road, which was right next to it. I believe this was not coincidental. We were also shocked to realize that some dying (huge) hemlocks had stayed upright. If they’d hit the house, we’d be sunk.
We lost power. Just figured it’d be that night or the next day when it came up. Then reports came trickling in. Everyone had damage. People traveled up and down our roads by 4-wheeler, since very few gas stations were open. As days went by, nursing homes scrambled for generators. Grocery stores and families lost much of their food.
Those with wells had no water, because the pumps wouldn’t work. We had city water, and our blessed water-workers immediately got a massive generator going THAT NIGHT to keep water fed up to the top of our mountain. I cannot ever thank them enough for doing that little thing. It kept everyone around us hydrated in the sweltering 90+degree temps that followed. 
My husband had the brilliant idea of digging a fire-pit to cook our rapidly-melting freezer meat (I married a farm boy, peeps!). This way, we didn’t have to rely solely on the propane grill. “You’re a real pioneer woman now,” he said to me. I can’t remember what I said back.  
Here’s a pic of said fire-pit and me forcing a cheery look for my daughter, as I cooked bacon in the oppressive heat, over the very warm fire…
We were glued to the local radio station with our one battery-operated walkman. The first few days, people were cheery, calling in tips about putting wet sheets on windows for cooler air, or bringing your solar outdoor lights inside to use as flashlights.
But by the sixth day, people were getting testy. Ice was at a premium, since people without generators had to use coolers for the little food they had left. It was the fourth of July, and it felt like…nothing. 
On the eighth day, we were blessed to have family visiting from Oregon. They only got to stay one night, but their kids were my kids’ ages. We ate grilled chicken on the porch, and for about four hours, we forgot we had no power. Kids ran around the house with flashlights and we adults had tons of great conversation. And maybe a few mosquito bites, too.
By the ninth day, my asthma had kicked in with the oppressive humidity. We’d controlled opening/closing windows in the house, but at nights, it wasn’t cooling off much. My caffeine-withdrawal was at an all-time high. Thankfully, in the nearby town, the Starbucks was open. BUT they had no iced drinks, making it a bust for some people. Not me. I would’ve drunk it straight off my fire pit flames at that point.
We gathered at church on Sunday and exchanged stories. Many of us were still without power. Some had gotten it on the next day (the ones connected to the resort power lines…hmmm). Some had said “Uncle!” early in the game and evacuated to air conditioned locales. But we knew we were survivors. Mountaineers.
Finally, yesterday (Monday), we got power. We had internet. We were thrilled. Random firecrackers went off nearby. 
However, as of Tuesday, some people around us still have no power! Please pray for them. 
All in all, I learned some things through this experience. You know me, I have to have a take-away. Here we go…
1) I remember why I don’t like reading Amish books. They work hard, all the time. They might be set-up to live power-free, but it’s not fun cooking over a hot fire in the middle of a heatwave. This was also great experience in thinking like a VIKING. Icy-cold bathing is enough to make you gasp the entire way through it. Also, naturally-curly haired Vikings had to proudly sport naturally frizzy hair on humid days. Just sayin’…
2) People are generally kind to strangers. West Virginia people are exemplary. We go through pain and we suck it up. A New Jersey power worker was shocked to be met by West Virginia residents bringing him lemonade and cookies instead of (as he expected) “cussing” him out. Friends cut up our tree limbs for free. One man offered us use of his generator on the fifth or sixth day.
3) That said, it’s nice to live near family in disastrous times. We can share food and support each other. We lighten each others’ loads, and we’re invested in one another in ways neighbors might not be.
4) The Hunger Games is not so very far-fetched. Things can go from great to horrid in a very short period of time. You might not be able to communicate with anyone. And there’s no way to be prepared for disasters like this, except maybe having generators (which require gasoline!). It’s still tough. I think prayer and just not panicking goes a long way to keeping it together for your family.
 5) I realized how much I enjoy blogging. I love your feedback. I love posting things to you and finding out your opinions. I love your support!
6) And finally, even when things look so bleak, you can’t imagine them ever getting better (we’d adjusted by the tenth day and couldn’t imagine life WITH power again), God can send sunrays into your life and make it better than you ever believed. “Don’t stop…believin’…” This seems especially poignant to me, as I’m trying to keep up faith that God’s Daughter is going to make it into the hands of a publisher who might be as excited about it as I am.

****What about you? I know many of you have survived disastrous times. What were your poignant take-aways from them?****


14 thoughts on “DERECHO Rhymes with JERICHO–Living without Power for 10 Days in WV

  1. Of course there's a take-away! After the hurricane here last year, I remember thinking, "Wow, if I ever wanted to write a dystopian novel, I would now have the material I need…" But since I write historical, I had fun keeping our milk cold in the stream, cooking over a fire, etc. Anyway, the first day was fun. (Then, as I mentioned before, we retreated to my parents'–yes! It's so much better when family is nearby!)

  2. Wow, what an experience! Thanks for sharing. It's amazing how we get so used to air conditioning, and every other modern appliance, and take so much for granted!

  3. Yes, Faith. I will say that I was rolling a post-apocalyptic YA novel around in my head one or two nights when I was an insomniac in the heat! And Jennifer, I figured you'd notice my absence! You are such a great supporter! Thankfully the asthma has subsided.

  4. Well, I am so encouraged by your words! 10 days without power myself and all 5 kids, their significant others, and 4 grandchildren all sought out shelter at Granny's (my house)! When they started arriving I will admit I was somewhat upset that they had not learned anything taught to them growing up! I mean they knew to prepare for life, how to live "poor", and not depend on the finer things in life to make them happy! Much to my surprise I was sorely mistaken…they had started arriving to help! Make life easier for Dear Ol' Mom! They gathered all the wood for the fire! They set up tents for cooler sleeping arrangements! They kept the "jeer pot" (solar refrigeration) wet and working! All Granny had to do was enjoy her family and know that all the work of raising them was worth every minute! THEY ARE SURVIVORS! All is well with the world (with or without power)! May God Bless You and Your Family! It really is the smallest things in life that matter! Family, Friends and Love!

  5. In thinking about this, my mind automatically went to the asthma. Both of our young sons have asthma and in 100+ temps around here, our breathing machine has been going non-stop. If we were out of power for 10 days, we'd have had to move to a hotel or find the nearest hospital with power, literally within hours. What a blessing that people were so kind – I love hearing stories like that. People really are good at heart (no matter what we're told), people really do care and yes, everyone is going to have bad, frizzy hair for a time. (Tropical storm Debby in Florida a week ago = I wore a hat and had crazy wind blown hair for several days. Oh well, huh?) I love your posts. We missed you from blogging too! Never lose power again, okay? ; ) Heart – Kristy

  6. Great post. What an ordeal. Glad you're OK. We forget how fragile life is and how easily things can kill us. In Alaska we could survive in the wilds, but I wonder what we'd do in Atlanta if the power went down.

  7. What an incredible ordeal, and I can see why you suggested I swing by and read this blog! The similarities to us and Superstorm Sandy are amazing. We become so used to our lives and the ease with which we get our power and food and water that when it disappears, we feel stricken. I wonder if that means we've grown TOO accustomed to having things easy. Makes you really appreciate what you have, don't you think?

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