Weathering the storm: War stories from the derecho

Tree falls on a wire in the 8500 block of Springvale Road in Montgomery County. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON – Last week’s violent storms killed more than 20 people in the Mid-Atlantic and left hundreds of thousands without power.

When the storms converged, many residents were caught by surprise and didn’t have time to prepare. Still, the deluge brought neighbors, friends and family together as people struggled to weather the derecho.

Some of our readers and listeners shared their stories about making it through the storms. Below is what they had to say.

Via Facebook:

Salimeh Khaleeli We had my husband’s 99yr old..almost 100..grandfather stay with us as they had no power…we were lucky not to lose power, and did what we could to help the family.

Anne Titus Honn This was my Facebook status on Tuesday: Our power is back on for the first time since last Friday crazy storm. It’s been a challenge but not all bad. We watched our boys emerge from their electronic comas and become kids again. The boys played poker and Monopoly and they read BOOKS, we took a 14 mile bike ride, we grilled great food as it thawed and had neighbors over for dinner and a couple of great rounds of Scattergories, I cleaned up my desk and got everything OUT of the IN box, the boys played disc golf with Rick, we walked downtown for dinner, we just hung out and relaxed. I’m glad the power is back but I’m really grateful for the past 4 days with my family.

Steve Michaels I live in an apartment that has not lost power for more then 2 hours since 2006 (when I moved in) and the neighbor said the Blizzard of 2003 was when they last did longer. That means this storm did more damage to my apartment then Hurricanes Isabel, Ivan, and Irene and more then Tropical Storm Lee and more then the tornadoes in 2010 and more then the Great Quake of 2011 and more then the two big snowstorms in 2009-2010.

Laura Prince Growing up with big, booming Midwestern thunderstorms, I’ve gotta say I’ve NEVER heard a storm hit so hard and so fast. My daughter & I grabbed candles and holed up in a small bathroom until the wind eased off. We were without power less than 24 hours… feel so grateful it wasn’t much worse.

Bryce William I work at harris teeter in olney and we had a semi truck of ice a day come in from sat-tuesday and we gave out free bags of ice to anyone who needed it.

Margaret Rose Hooray for the power companies, I say! And I think Chris Van Holland’s desire to get Congress involved is idiotic. It was a major storm, genius. Power isn’t going to be restored the next day.

Alexandra Houstoun Craige Please remember also small businesses that lost product or just business due to the storm and resulting outages.

Jimmy Lawson I would advise those dissatisfied with the progress of power restoration to imagine what it must of been like for those folks living along the Gulf of Mexico post Katrina? Given the suddenness and crisis damages created by this herecto I have seen the quick response of Firefighters, Police, EMT’s and public safety personnel rise above it all and perform to a very high standard. I have gone through dozens of ice cold bottled water kept on the front seat of my car, passing them out to all those in their collective efforts to restore our infrastructure. When I see cops directing traffic, or utility workers I give them bottled water and an “attah boy for deeds done oh so very well”.

Kellie Scarbrough We were out of town. Our cat sitters said we had no power but not to worry about the temp inside. When we got home our cats were pretty toasty but we had just gotten power back so we cranked the AC. Aside from having to toss all the food in our fridge, we escaped any serious damage to property or ourselves. Dominion has always been great-we’re grateful to have them.

Angela Roberts During the parade in Shady Side, Md. yesterday, the BGE trucks were in line to get into Shady Side after the parade was over and as they came down through, all the residents of the town were cheering and clapping for them, and the truck drivers were blowing the horns on the trucks, my son said they got a better response then the whole parade. Thanks to all those.

Karen Meese Pyles A mile up the street from me a tree came down on a car a claimed the life of a young man. His friends escaped serious injury. So sad. Wrong place at the right time.

Frank Scheer I went to a 7-11 with power on sunday and bought 40 1-liter waterbottles and drove around for a few hours passing them out to linesmen and tree trimmers in Alexandria.

The head of Maryland’s Public Service Commission said Thursday all of Maryland’s major electrical utilities will have to file reports on how they managed power restoration in the aftermath of the strong storm that tore through Maryland late last week, knocking out power to more than 1 million Maryland customers.


Via Email:

Kaplan, Lawrence D. :

please keep up your good work

pepco’s ap was updated for my house in N. Bethesda from Friday at 11 til Sunday at 11…..hopefully not true, but their “good pr” emphasizing that they are beating their targets appears to be because they keep moving their goal posts…. they should not be lauded for meeting artificial deadlines. yes they have an ap — but if it doesn’t have accurate info, its worthless.

i appreciated the other morning when the anchor told their pepco president to stop giving prepared talking points — please ask him when his power was restored… we should be able to see if he has standing orders to restore his (and other Pepco officers) power first.


Lisa Miller

2 years ago “Snowmageddon” brought a tree down crushing the roof of my van. Friday night Derecho brought a tree down on my van again! Not nearly as much damage but it has led me to believe that if a tree is going to fall, it’s gonna hit my van!

Lisa Miller Oakton Va

****************** Jessica Whitehall

Hi, WTOP! Thought I’d share our storm stories with you.

There are several electric service providers in our area. We personally have Pepco, whos coverage area ends at Huntmaster Road. This means that one side of the street has Pepco as a service provider, and across the street our neighbors have Potomic Edison. Edison is much better at restoring service to its customers in the area, perhaps because it has fewer than Pepco. Whenever a major storm knocks out the power, the other half of the street, including street lights, always manages to have power restored before our side of the street does. It’s rather silly. We don’t really know our neighbors of 20 years, however, so we mostly just listen to WTOP and wish we had Edison. I always thought it would be a great news story- this side of the street is well lit, but only 60 feet away residents have been without power for three days. It would certainly highlight the contrast between providers, though I’m sure it isn’t a unique situation.

When my father realized we would be without power for several days, he decided he would get a generator to save our large freezer. He called around without any luck, but eventually was told a shipment of 70 would be in the next day. Dad informed us the power would return as soon as he got the generator. The next day came and went with no restoration in power and no generator. The shipment was late and would not arrive until the next morning.

The next morning my father went out to pick up the generator, got it home and started it up. After getting the freezer plugged in, we determined that we’d gotten to the frozen food just in time. Suddenly there was a loud beep, and the air conditioner started running. We’d had the brand new generator on for all of 10 minutes when the power came back.

On a less cheery note, My friend had his power go out, and he took his family to a hotel, leaving the two cats behind but leaving windows open for them. His neighbor set up his generator between the houses and it ended up venting into the basement where the cats were staying. Thankfully the cats were ill but alive when they were checked on and were taken to the hotel in time, but everyone needs to be mindful of their generator placement.

I hope you all did well during these storms! Thank you for the chance to share storm stories.


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