If you’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been a recent post from The Enchanted Bath, it’s because things have been . . . well . . . less than enchanting around here lately. We had a bad storm and I’ve been without electricity, internet or cell phone service for three days. We’re also in the middle of a heat wave, which is not a good combination. Thankfully the picture above was not taken at my house.
At 7pm on Friday, June 29, a wild storm came through, uprooting trees everywhere. A Facebook follower once commented, “It seems like your power goes out a lot where you live”. Compared to some places, I guess it does. I live near Huntington, West Virginia which is part of the Ohio River Valley. This is Appalachia – there are tons of hills and trees here. There are also lots of undeveloped areas here that don’t have roads. So it’s difficult for power companies to get to those remote areas to cut up the trees that have fallen on power lines. So when our power goes out, it tends to be off longer than more urban (and flatter) areas of the country. Not to mention that the size of some of the fallen mature hardwood trees means they require a lot of time to cut up and move.
Anyway, I found out later that the storm that blew through here was called a derecho and that it was a rare type of storm. I love storms but I had never heard of a derecho until this happened. It is also referred to as a ‘land hurricane’. The winds reached speeds of over 90 mph in some areas, but I believe they were closer to 70mph by the time the storm came through here. I’m including a link to show you what a derecho is like. This is NOT the one that hit my area. It is just an example of what these storms are like. Someone captured this video of a previous derecho somewhere else: Here is the link. They are very much like a coastal hurricane except that they don’t last nearly as long. You also don’t get several days warning like you do with a regular hurricane.
Before the storm hit last Friday evening, the temperature here was 103 degrees. And it wasn’t a dry Las Vegas, meet-me-at-the-casino-for-an-all-you-can-eat-brunch kind of heat. No, this was a down-home, southern, red-faced, wet bangs, shirt-sticking-to-your-back kind of heat. It was the kind of steamy jungle heat that makes people so miserable they are liable to punch you in the nose if you so much as ask them to pass you the sweet tea at the dinner table.
I had just returned home from the grocery store and was putting food into my refrigerator when I noticed the kitchen seemed to be getting dark. I walked out on my front porch and looked up at the sky to see if it looked like rain. The sky was getting a little darker but there was no lightning or thunder. I could tell the heat had suddenly slacked way off though. A light breeze blew across my porch, just barely enough to make my wind chimes tinkle. I was just thinking how awesome that little breeze felt, when the electricity went off.
I decided to sit down on my porch swing for a little while since the temperature seemed to be dropping so rapidly and since my electricity was off anyway. I wanted to enjoy the breeze and watch for the storm to roll in. I didn’t have long to wait. All at once, that nice little breeze turned into hurricane-force winds and trees began whipping around wildly. Dust and grit began blowing into my eyes and mouth and I remember thinking how extremely dry the air was. It was almost like a sand storm. Our summer storms are usually full of humidity and rain. The storm didn’t last long and there was only the tiniest amount of rain right at the end. A bizarre event, for sure.
Right after the storm passed through, the power was out in 85% of the state of West Virginia! Think about that for a moment. What if 85% of your state suddenly did not have electricity? It’s kind of mind-boggling. Our neighboring states of Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio also had lots of outages.
The next three days were pretty miserable. The heat was extreme. There were fallen trees blocking roads or on top of houses and cars. Everyone was caught unprepared. A severe thunderstorm warning had been broadcast Friday evening shortly before the storm, but no one thought much of it since we get those warnings pretty often in the summer. We usually just get lightning, thunder and a hard rain and then it’s over.
On Saturday morning those who did not have gasoline headed for the gas stations. A lucky few families had emergency generators to run their refrigerators and a light or a fan, but even those people did not have enough gasoline to continue running their generators for very long, so they all headed to the gas stations too.
Unfortunately, many gas stations couldn’t run their pumps without electricity, so they were closed. There were a few places around the area that had not lost power and that’s where everyone went to get gas. There were massive lines for those few gas stations that were open and had electricity. But then those stations started running out of gas.
After people had gassed up their vehicles and generators, they needed to fill up their stomachs. We all tried not to open our refrigerators because we wanted to preserve the cold air inside as long as possible. There were a couple of McDonald’s that still had electricity so that’s where everyone went to get hot food and cold drinks and to watch the news on the televisions they had there. They also had internet so some of us were able to use phones, iPads and laptops to send or receive messages. That was so helpful because a lot of cell phone towers were down and most people had no way of contacting family or friends. I’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner at McDonald’s for the past three days. So much for my diet.
Yes, Mickey D’s was definitely a meeting place after this storm. People were lined up out the doors and the parking lot was so full that some people could not get back out because they were blocked by other cars trying to get in. Some people waited in long lines and then reached the cashiers only to find that they were unable to use credit cards because the power outages had affected the credit card machines. People were patient, well-behaved and tolerant for the most part but it was still pretty chaotic. It really made me wonder what would happen in case of a severe emergency like war or a contagious pandemic. Hopefully we won’t ever find out.
After two days without electricity, I had to empty my refrigerator and freezer because most of the food had already gone bad in the heat. Everyone who did not own a generator was in the same boat. Ice was impossible to find. I went from store to store, including gas stations, but everyone was out. The trucks of ice from outside the state had not yet arrived. At one point I think I would have traded my car for a bag of ice.
Shown below is a picture taken the next day when some trucks arrived from Kansas City, Missouri. This was their staging area. We were so happy to see the first of the cavalry arriving! We found out later that some trucks came from as far away as California.
As crazy as things have been here, I am well aware that it could always have been worse. I didn’t lose water like some people did. I live on the edge of thick woods so I’m very lucky that I didn’t have a tree fall on my house or car. Also, a friend’s power came back on before mine did so I was able to spend two nights at her house. I truly am thankful for all these things.
So my power finally came back on and the house has already gone from 88 degrees to a cool, crisp 87 degrees. I’m looking forward to life getting back to normal. Hopefully life will soon be enchanting again ;-)
PS – I never want to see another McDonald’s food item ever again. Ever.
PPS - There have been utility trucks rolling into our area from everywhere. One thing I found funny was this: I have a coworker who lives in South Shore, Kentucky, a teeny-tiny little place. This coworker was without power due to a blown transformer and small fire in her back yard during the storm. The coworker’s husband called her at work yesterday to tell her that there was a utility truck from New Orleans in their back yard. He told her the guys from New Orleans were working on the transformer and their accents were so thick that he first thought they were speaking a foreign language. I got a good laugh picturing the ‘Cajun meets Hillbilly’ scenario since the Cajun man probably had difficulty with our regional accent as well. Thank goodness for humor to get us through difficult times!