I did a posting a few days ago about the extraordinary weather suffered by a part of the USA that Vee and I visited very recently for a holiday. I’ve now had a detailed personal report from my friend Michael Grace with whom we stayed outside Washington. This is his account:
“As two folks who have recently experienced D.C., I thought I would give you a short update on our situation.
As you know, a major storm ripped through the D.C.-Baltimore region around 10 p.m. on Friday night. The storm literally came out of nowhere and featured hurricane strength winds, strong rains and powerful gusts. The entire region was devastated.
The day had been hot (even for us) and we had guests that evening. Our power went out about 10:30 p.m. We have a 15,000 watt home generator that automatically kicked on about 30 seconds after the power cut off. The generator is fueled from an underground 500-gallon propane gas tank. It is buried in the landscaping near the garage. The generator powers all of our major appliances and many of the house outlets on the first and second floors, including hot water heater, refrigerators, freezer, water pump (remember, we have a well) and microwave. We had water, our food supply was safe and we could prepare meals. We also had power for our TV and broadband. But we could not power our air conditioners, which take about 40,000 watts for just one.
The rest of the region was not so lucky. More than 1.5 million people were out of power, electric substations were knocked out, water pumping stations had no power and major streets were blocked with huge, fallen trees. Some neighborhoods looked like the Jolly Green Giant had sneezed and knocked down every tree.
Temperatures over the past several days, meanwhile, continue to remain in the mid-nineties to over 100 (yesterday, it was 104). The weather has been uncomfortable for us. The both of you would have melted like ice pops in the desert.
In addition, most gas stations had lost power to their pumps and people couldn’t even get enough gas to leave town if they wanted.
The utility companies were caught totally off-guard. Usually, we have some warning for major weather events such as hurricanes or snow storms. This storm blew up suddenly late in the evening on the first day of the weekend and few power crews were standing by or on call. As you also know, we still have most of our wiring above-ground. When the winds came, trees and poles went down like weeds. The companies took hours just to get crews on the streets as workers had the same power and travel challenges like everyone else to get on the job. In addition, we have deregulation in our electricity now, and our utility companies have faced criticism over the past several years for cutting back on maintenance, repair and restoration for the sake of profits.
This situation has not helped their reputations.
We had a major golf event taking place over the weekend, The AT&T National PGA Golf Tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods, which was broadcast on national television. Tiger always draws tens of thousands of people to any tournament he plays and even non-golfers follow this event. The devastation was so bad, that the event was closed on Saturday to volunteers and spectators. The tournament was played on Saturday as crews worked overnight to clear trees and debris from the course. But we witnessed an eerie scene watching the golf tournament on TV on Saturday with no spectators or crowds. As a joke, the professionals would clap for each other on good shots. (Sunday was a different story, as tickets from Saturday were honored and the crowds were massive.)
Power crews were called in over the weekend from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas, but the Monday morning rush was a nightmare for active workers. Major commuter roads remained blocked with fallen trees, most traffic signals were dark and offices still had no power. Federal, state and local governments gave workers “liberal” leave or allowed for telecommuting. Non-essential workers were urged to “take a vacation day.” In addition, several local communities canceled their traditional Fourth of July ceremonies and fireworks.
Laura and I remained fairly comfortable throughout the past several days, but many families have experienced a real ordeal. Our power came back on about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. Our generator just hummed along and in the evening we had a fan blowing cool night air on us while sleeping. So this was just another adventure for us.
As of today, July 4, several hundred thousand people still have no power and more than 20 weather-related deaths have been reported. Our surrounding community is functioning again, but the utility companies say power will not be fully restored in the region until Friday.
This storm was a big deal, with many comparing it to the destruction left by Hurricane Irene which hit D.C. in 2011 and was one of the worst hurricanes to ever strike the area. People will be talking about this one for a long time.
Just think about all of the excitement that you both missed by just a couple of weeks. What a story you could have told. Imagine the exciting report for your blog, Roger.
Oh, well, we’ll see if we can produce a real, live hurricane for you to experience on your next summertime visit to D.C.”