I learned a new word over the weekend: Derecho (rhymes with "Jericho" - I think) the Spanish word for "straight" which weather experts use to describe an unusually linear mass of strong storms moving across a region. One moved across the D.C. area Friday night, causing record widespread damage, power outages and some deaths.
Friday was unusually hot, in fact, hotter than I have ever seen it. 105 degrees heat with high humidity is some kind of hot! So we stayed inside and enjoyed the air conditioning - I love and admire you, Willis Haviland Carrier. It was too hot for the pool, even. In that kind of heat the water is often like tepid bathwater and not at all refreshing. At about 10:30 PM that night as the derecho hit, came the biggest lightning and wind storm I have ever seen; the flashes of light colored the sky a strong blue and were nearly continuous. I posted myself on the front porch to watch the amazing show. I could see great flashes of orange light on the horizon, which I supposed were transformers or power lines breaking. Huge wind gusts bowed old, stout trees. The lights up and down the street were flickering on and off, and, as I feared, went off for good at 10:40 PM. Uh-oh. It's a very warm night ahead without air conditioning...
Or perhaps not! The air temperature went from about 88 degrees to 75 or so in the matter of about fifteen minutes. So, without power, we went downstairs and slept upon the beds in the basement, where it was cooler. We broke out our various flashlights and candles (I also have kerosene lamps and lanterns as well as propane light - we're in good shape with a diversity of emergency light sources), watched some videos on the laptop and went to bed.
Next day still no power, so we took some food over to my pard Chris' house - he still had power, which we also used to charge up the cell phones - and visited some folks to compare notes. While doing yard sales - there were only two - I tanked up the cars with gas. Gasoline means a running engine which means air conditioning and 110 VAC power via my inverter. Most of the gas stations in town were closed due to widespread power outages; most of the traffic lights were off as well. Debris and branches were all over the roads... an interesting sight! Had I been thinking I would have grabbed some ice right away, but by the time we realized that we'd want to put some of the freezer meat in a cooler all the stores were out of ice.
We had an emergency Saturday night dining session with the Four Families (formerly the Five Families) at a local pizza joint, to enjoy the air conditioning. Yes, photos of baby Gibson were passed around and he was certainly a conversational topic.
I spoke to my Burbank pal Mike; wind storms are a big deal in Northern Virginia because we have trees, lots and lots of trees. With high winds they blow over and take down power lines, so summer storms and power outages are somewhat common. (On Saturday my wife and I reflected that, growing up, power outages were very rare in Southern California. Fewer trees!) One elderly woman in Springfield died when a tree collapsed on her home, killing her. She was 90. This happened just down the street from one of the friends we visited. So high winds can be a very big deal, indeed.
The various power companies announced restoration status on the radio all through the event, and Sunday morning arrived - still no power. As the temps began to rise we wondered: Do we close all the windows we had opened to trap the (relatively) cooler air that we had collected in the house, or do we leave them open? (Indoor temps on the main and upper levels were 82 degrees plus.) What would George Washington do?, I wondered aloud. I was in the process of opening the big double doors onto the deck when I heard the air conditioner compressor come on and heard my wife yelp - the power had come back on after 35 hours. Hooray!
I learned some emergency preparedness lessons: 1.) I need to get myself a propane camping cooktop. I didn't like not being able to boil water or prepare food if I had to. I have had always had a mental note to do this since getting rid of my crappy white gas camp stove some time ago, but never have purchased one. A reminder is now on a note on the cork board. 2.) A cigarette lighter-to-Apple power cord adapter would be nice to charge laptops via a car rather than via a car and an inverter. I have a device which can flash charge an iPod (for music) or an iPhone via batteries as an emergency device. This other cord would augment that. 3.) I need to get another COSTCO AA cell battery box - just in case.
By the way, I noticed that with the advent of fiber optics and Voice over IP ("VoIP"), copper land lines aren't what they used to be. It used to be that they were ultra reliable; whenever everything else was down you could still make and get voice calls. Now in an emergency the wired phone service is just as spotty as the cell phone network. My son tried to call me via our home number but got a recording. Nice work, AT&T and Verizon! This is what comes of merging the voice network with the data network.
It goes without saying that Internet connectivity via the cell network was crappy, too. I could send and receive the occasional text message, but that was about it. Communications engineers have a lot of work to do...
I mentioned Baby Gibson: More photos starting here. I love that thoughtful, somewhat troubled look he has on his face in that first shot. It looks like he's concerned about where his next meal is going to come from.
I also posted a video for my kids to use to determine to what extent Gibson resembles Ethan as a baby. Here we are leaving Provo, Utah for the East Coast in June 1984. This is the best Ethan baby sequence I have.
And the interrupted work week - we get Wednesday off - begins...
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