Monday, July 9, 2012

Power outage 2012

It feels like so long since I've updated here! I have a lot to tell you all.

Friday, June 29th, an unexpected hurricane-like storm swept across the East Coast knocking out power to about three million people. I have read that the storm was like a hurricane just without the warning, and we were very unprepared for the damage it would cause.

That Friday evening around 7pm, Hubby, Monkey, and myself had left the house to head to a carnival down the road a couple miles. I was excited to watch Monkey ride the rides, eat fair food, and have a good time as a family. Before we left the house, Father-in-Law tells us that there is a storm coming and we may not be able to stay the whole time.
We think "Oh ok, a thunderstorm, no big deal".

When we arrive, there are clear skies and no reason to suspect a dangerous storm was on it's way, very, very quickly.

Monkey picked out a caterpillar to get painted on his arm by a woman not wearing a bra (uck) then we headed over to the rides. 

He has a blast on the dinosaur ride.  (Notice the grey skies)

And the airplane ride..

By the time he makes it onto the car ride, the skies are turning darker and I'm starting to worry.

You can see them roll in and get darker..

By this time, I had gotten in line to get a lemonade and a corn dog thinking I had time before it started raining.
Boy was I wrong. 
I look above the stand and see the darkest storm cloud I've ever seen rolling and speeding over the mountain. I get this frantic sense of urgency and a feeling that this is no normal thunderstorm; this storm is dangerous and we need to get out of there FAST.
I turn around and yell at the Hubby that "we have to go NOW!". He in turn yells at the ride conductor to shut the thing off and we run inside, grab Monkey off the ride, and take off towards the truck.
We are halfway to the truck when this solid wall of wind SLAMS into the carnival. It was like a slap in the face, it was so solid and harsh. Trash goes flying, trash cans are tossed a dozen feet into the air, and tents are destroyed in the process. 

We make it to the truck before it really starts raining. By this time, the entire carnival had been cleared out. I felt bad for the people left fighting to try and get tents under control, but this storm was unlike anything I had ever experienced. 

The storm descended upon Rainelle in a matter of minutes. There was no warning and no expectations of a sever storm. We merely thought it was a mild thunderstorm, but little did we know this storm would knock our power out for the next 5 days.

I had to take a picture of this idiot standing out in the middle of everything waiting to get struck by lightning. 

We head back towards home, passing downed trees already, and it had only been about 10-15 minutes since the storm had arrived.
We come upon a long line of cars, thinking there was an accident, we wait.

When we get to the end of the line we realize the entire roadway is blocked by a giant fallen tree. We have no choice but to turn around and try to go the long way home.
Over the mountain. 

By this point, we realized that we may not be able to make it over the mountain since trees were falling left and right but there was no other choice. We had no idea how long it would take someone to clear the tree from the highway, so we decided to make an attempt to go around.

We head back to Rainelle, then up over the mountain. We come up to a convoy of cars trying to go the same way. They had made it about 5 miles before the came onto a downed tree.

Those closer to the front of the line all came out into the pouring rain, teamed together, and starting clearing the road.

You can't see from the picture very well, but we came across a much larger tree and luckily one of the convoy members had a chain that they hooked to our truck, and we were able to pull the tree out of the road.

It was actually kind of exciting to watch as all these locals ganged together and helped each other out in a time of need. I'm so happy I had my camera with me to catch this event!

We all slowly made our way up the road, leading the rest of the convoy, and would stop to clear trees.

Here's another downed tree. By this time, it was really pouring rain and getting dark.

It took us all about an hour and a half to make a, usually, 15 minute commute across the mountain. But it was truly inspiring to see the community come together in a crisis and help everyone make it safely home!

Of course, when we arrive home, the power was out. There was really nothing else for us to do but to gather up the flashlights, water, and batteries then go to bed. 

Then next morning, I headed out to survey the damage.

This is our neighbor across the street. The top third of their pine tree had snapped off then was dropped about 30 feet away on top of their fence. 
My dad told me the tell tale sign of a tornado is when the tops of trees are ripped off, not blown over, but snapped. I'm positive if we had lived in a flatter area, it would have been torn apart by tornadoes. 

Here a tree had fallen on the road and the power line was just feet above the road.

Here's the tree.

Here's the house I saw the night before, in the daylight.

It's blurry, but the tree on the left had been swept right out of the ground, roots and all.

Here is where the giant tree had blocked the road that night before. You can see the power lines just hanging in mid air.

Again, another tree that was just swept right out of the ground, roots and all.

Here is a photo from a friend who lives just 30 minutes from us.

This photo is from a news station near Huntington, Wv.

Here is a graphic of the storm itself, and how fast it made its way across the East Coast.

My best friend and her family had planned to head to the beach the Saturday morning after the storm, with no idea of the damage it would cause during their vacation. She told me later that she had seen the rear end of the storm where she was in South Carolina. They took their time making their way home since there was no power to come home to! 

During our five days without power, it was very stressful because there was also no gasoline! There was no way to fill up the cars and make it to work because none of the gas stations were able to get power. It was scary there for a couple days, not knowing when the power would get back on, people were flipping out and stealing gas, punching people, throwing things at cops, and acting like it was the end of the world. 
Luckily I had filled up my car the morning before the storm so I was able to make it somewhere if I really needed to, but I was also careful to conserve what I had.

The first day without power, I was itching to have the internet back to stay updated, but by day two, I was more worried about staying cool. Neither my husband or I have internet on our phones, so we had to rely on the radio to stay up to date. We stocked up on water (we have a pump so no power = no water) from a family member who has city water, we washed off in another family member's pool, and just tried to stay cool in the upper 90 temperatures. 

We realized on day two that we had a generator in the garage the whole time. *facepalm*. It was an ancient thing that made a lot of noise, but it was able to run our fridge, deep freezer, two fans, and the tv (to watch movies) as well as Father-In-Law's fridge, deep freezer, fans, and TV. The next step was to find gas to run the generator. 
It took a little hunting, but FIL was able to find gasoline to keep the generator running from a station that had their own generator. 

The next couple days people desperately tried to find water, gasoline, and ice. All stores within close driving distance ran out of any ice, gasoline, or water they had and locals would have to wait for them to get stocked again. There were lines, up to an hour long, for gasoline, and many people drove out of state to get generators. 

Slowly, very slowly, power was restored to some places and homes. Stores were able to open back up at about day 4 and have enough supplies for the public, and gasoline trucks made it in to refuel the gas stations. 

We really didn't do much except go swimming and sit in front of our fans. I was really beginning to worry that I wouldn't be able to work since there weren't any local stations that were pumping gas. You could drive down the road and see half a dozen cars just parked at gas stations because they didn't have enough gas to get anywhere else. They just had to wait. 

The worst part about this: the PGA was coming. Since last year, White Sulfer Springs has hosted the PGA at the Greenbrier Hotel. So there were thousands of out of state PGA'ers coming to the area, only to find it without power, no gas, and no where to stay. On top of that, once WV was declared in a state of emergency, there were hundreds of power workers that came from as far as Georgia to help WV get power back. We don't have enough hotels in our area to accommodate all these people, and sadly, I saw dozens of power employees forced to sleep on cots and tiny air mattresses outside in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. 

We still do not have power to everyone in WV, and I can only pray they are able to restore it soon. It is going on day 10 and the heat is only getting worse. I hope people remember that these power employees have driven hundreds of miles to help us get power back and we have to be patient. There was a lot of damage and they are working very long hours in the sweltering heat to help us. 

We, thankfully, got power back very late Wednesday night but I know a lot of people (including FIL right next door) that still don't have power. This storm really caught the whole state by surprise and many were not prepared. I know one thing I have learned: we will be getting our own generator!