The storm that came through the DC area on Friday night has a name. It’s called a Derecho. I had never heard of it. It’s described as a widespread storm in which multiple bands of strong storms packing damaging winds move hundreds of miles. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, their name comes from the Spanish word for “direct” or “straight ahead”, which is the way the storms typically move.
The heavy winds, typically upward of 60 mph (and I think we had 90 mph winds), come from downbursts in storm clouds, caused by differences in the heat and density of air within the storm systems. There’s already a Wikipedia page for Friday’s storm and Capital Weather Gang is taking suggestions to name the historic storm. So far my favorite is Derecho en Fuego. But, what will be very interesting is to see how many babies are born in say…..March or April who are named Derecho. Or Derrick. Or some other derivative of the name.
We are still without power in our neighborhood. We went to the house yesterday as we wanted to check on things and water the outside plants since the water restriction had been lifted. The house was stifling — 99 degrees inside. It was starting to stink, so we emptied the remains of the refrigerator and freezer — only to discover that we’d forgotten to empty the ice maker when we left on Saturday and it had melted all over the floor. The wood laminate floor, which will now likely sustain permanent damage. But, that can be dealt with.
We drove around the neighborhood a little, just amazed at the destruction. Trees were uprooted everywhere. Others had just snapped in two. Some had landed on roofs and cars. Others had miraculously not fallen on anything but the ground. Electric lines were down everywhere. We realized how lucky we are that the enormous tree in our backyard, which is in dire need of either cutting down or trimming back, was still standing. A few branches had come down, but nothing had hit the house. It made the potential damage to the kitchen floor seem like nothing. And it is nothing in the whole scheme of things. It might cost us some money, but that’s okay. Our family is okay and that is the important thing.
The power is starting to come back on, but people are growing weary and impatient. And, I don’t blame them. Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have a cool place to stay. People blame the power companies. And no…they are not perfect. There are things that could be done to help prevent things like this, but they cost money and nobody wants to pay for them. They also take time and people want instant gratification. Trees could be cut back, but people fight that, too. So there are no easy answers.
What I do know is that the crews are working hard. Nobody is sitting in an air-conditioned room with their feet up on a desk, laughing at the misfortune of others and figuring out ways to prolong it. And, crews are working round the clock to get the lights back on. They’ve left their families in other states to come here — and it is a holiday week. They are working in unbearable heat and then many of them go home to their own dark, hot houses. Show them some respect. If you come across them in your neighborhood, tell them thank you. The system might be broken, but it’s not their fault. They are hard workers, making an honest living for their families.
And in the midst of the frustration, we need to remember to take care of each other. If your power comes back on, invite people over who you know don’t have power. Even if you know that your friends and family without power are in a safe place, check on them anyway. I can tell you that it’s not easy to be displaced from your home. Just show them you care. Be courteous on the roads. Treat intersections without lights as four way stops. I know this is DC, but give your horn a break for a few days. Our nerves are all frazzled. You’ll get where you are going, I promise. Smile at someone today. Even if you don’t feel like it. They might really need it. Actually, I know they need it. We all need people to be kind and a little bit patient every day of the year. A smile goes a long way, even when there isn’t a natural disaster to deal with.
And then, when the lights are all back on and our lives get back to normal….try to keep doing those things. Just an idea.