I have lived through hurricanes and a tornado while living on Long Island. Since moving to Virginia, I’ve added to my list of experiences an earthquake. Now I will add a new experience: derecho. Yes, I’ve learned a new word.
Last Friday, temperatures soared past the 100 degree mark. Around 8 p.m, we turned on the Weather Channel and saw that nearly the entire state of Virginia was outlined in the yellow “thunderstorm warning” box. We didn’t see any clouds on the map, so we decided to just check back later and make sure the electronics were unplugged before retiring for the evening. We lost one computer several years ago when we forgot to disconnect the phone line from it during a storm, and from that experience gleaned only that which experience teaches.
Around 9:45 I took Shadow for her last walk, and the air outside was hot and still. The colorful garden flag my friend Joan gave me for my birthday just hung limply from its post, and the American flag on the porch was still. I went upstairs to get ready for bed. A weird noise seemed to be coming from above me, and I figured it was the sound of the air conditioner turning onto high speed. But the noise increased and I ran downstairs to see what was happening just as my husband shouted for me to come down.
We were hit with a derecho- a wall of high velocity wind that precedes thunderstorms. The winds by some estimates were 60-80 miles per hour and they sustained that speed for about 10 minutes. It was an awful sound listening to the howl and shrieking of the wind hitting the house. It was unrelenting. Usually during a storm you get gusts, but not this. It was like a wall of wind just hit the house and kept coming.
And then the power went out.
We stood by the windows and watched big bolts of lightning touching down to the south of us. But there was no rain and eerily enough…no thunder. Just lightning.
Saturday was hot, sticky and without electricity, telephones or running water. And of course – no air conditioning. As temperatures soared beyond 100 once again, I had flashbacks to hiking in the desert Canyonlands of Utah many years ago. So hot you wanted to lay down in the shade and nap….
The reports on the radio were grim. We thought we’d be out of power for many days, but fortunately, Dominion power restored service in just about 20 hours from the power outage. I keep praying for the rest of the people in the state who don’t have power.
It happened so fast! And in the end, it could have been much worse. We could have been stuck in the 100 degree weather for days on end without relief of air conditioning.
Derecho. I learned a new word this weekend.
And I also want to urge you to get your bad weather preparedness stuff ready. I used to laugh when I’d see that info back when I lived on Long Island. On Long Island when the power went out, you just complained because you were missing your favorite TV shows. The water system kept working (gravity fed) and the supermarket was a block or two away. But out here in the country, you have to be prepared. If a big tree fell over the driveway, for example, we have to be ready to remove it. We have to have water for when the electric well pump won’t work. We have to have dried food that will keep several days. I have a friend from Miami who jokes about “hurricane dinners” of Ritz crackers and peanut butter. It’s food like that in the pantry that will at least keep you full until you can get the power back on and fresh food again.
So…derecho. I learned a new word. And respect for derecho!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.