July 2, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Freak wind storm blasts region

A wind storm known as a "derecho" (which is Spanish for straight, as opposed to the normal swirly winds in storms) swept through the Mid-Atlantic region on Friday night. With speeds up to 80 miles an hour, it knocked out electric power in hundreds of thousands of homes, including this one. For about 22 hours we were without lights or air conditioning, as the temperature outside soared into the upper 90s once again. It was bloody awful. Some of our neighbors still are without power, nearly three full days of blackout conditions. All across Virginia, West Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, hundreds of thousands of people have endured severe misery, and it may be days before everyone is connected to the power grid once again.

On Saturday morning I drove around Staunton and the countryside to the north, surveying the damage. I saw several dozen large trees that had fallen, and photographed some of the more dramatic scenes.

Fallen trees 30 June 2012

Fallen trees at Mary Baldwin College (top two) and Donaghe Street in Staunton, and a Hardees sign that nearly collapsed in Verona.

There was another major incovenience resulting from the storm: Our cable TV-Internet service (Comcast) was knocked out, and was not restored until late this afternoon. Not being able to keep up with what's going on in the outside world with the TV weatherman was extremely frustrating. None of the local radio stations has a real news operation, since they are all corporate-owned automated broadcasters these days. The best we could do was listen to WVTF ("Radio IQ"), which provided frequent updates on power outages, etc., but they cover a large region across western Virginia, so there wasn't much news about our particular community. I've been meaning to buy a short-wave radio in case of such as emergency, and I guess I'd better go out and get one soon, before the next such storm hits.

And of course, the lack of Internet meant no baseball scores, no blogging, and no Facebook for me. What a rude shock to my digital lifestyle! Perhaps it was a healthy reminder of the thin barrier that separates modern hyper-connected humankind from low-tech primitivism.