Folks in far western Virginia were clobbered by a
surprise storm June 29. It was sneaky and swift and wicked.
I had just returned home from Covington, where it was
103 degrees. I bought $200 worth of groceries, in preparation for
houseguests during July 4. I put away the fabulous foods, took a shower
and washed my hair, which proved to be quite fortuitous.
Ten minutes later, reading in my chair, I noticed the
sky looked darker than it should for early evening. And then I spotted
something else: The Green Tinge.
I learned during my time on boats in the Gulf that
whenever the sky takes on a green tinge, it is time to batten down the
hatches, hurry toward shore, and pray you make it.
I darted outside to take down the laundry. The wind
picked up and twigs began to blow off the trees. Back inside, the
curtains were sucked into the screens. Thunder rumbled. And suddenly, it
was upon us: the wildest, scariest storm I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve been tossed at sea with waterspouts dancing madly
and lightning striking the mast. But I’ve never been so frightened as I
was the night of June 29. I could hear a roar, and big trees crashing
down around my house and onto the highway. The power blew in an instant.
I think the scariest thing about it was that I had
absolutely no control whatsoever. And I’m a girl who likes control.
Would a big pine tree crash into the house? It sure
sounded like it could.
I almost panicked, but I learned long ago that panic
can be death. Brownie panted loudly, dancing in a little circle. I
figured the best thing to do was to get us out of there and down to the
end of the driveway, near a concrete-block building with no tall trees
around it. We’d be safer waiting there. I picked up Brownie and —
optimist that I am — a bottle of water, a book and my cell phone. In the
car, I figured, we’d have light, and the radio, and I could read until
the storm passed.
The joke was on me. The driveway was completely
blocked by fallen trees. I hurried back inside, carrying Brownie. Both
of us were shaking.
Thus began six long, hot days of living without power.
All the expensive, fun food in the refrigerator and freezer spoiled,
except for the few things a friend and I grilled outside the first three
By the third night, we were on our “last supper.” It
was fish, and we just hoped it wasn’t “Ptomaine Tilapia.”
I discovered the smartest purchase I’d made in years.
At the time, it was an impulse buy, but that “miner’s headlamp” was
invaluable: I could strap it on and read until it was time for bed.
I never did adjust to not having coffee when I arose
at 5:30 every morning. And working as a storm-covering reporter was
daunting, considering I was power-less. I’d write until my computer
battery was spent, and then go set up an office at the corner of my
friend’s kitchen table.
During my ordinary life, ice is unimportant. I never
even turn on the ice-maker. During a power outage, though, ice becomes a
special Holy Grail type of quest. A power-line worker I took a photo of
gave me a bag of it on Day Two. I was happier than if it were a bag of
diamonds. Another worthless thing I came to treasure was a small
cardboard fan. I waved it until my hand hurt, and then I switched hands.
The BARC Electric Cooperative guys and power crews
from far-flung locales worked night and day. Most of Bath County was
back on in short order. But my big trees had caused a lot of damage;
they’d mangled power, phone, and cable lines. Up and down the highway,
lights twinkled and TV sets glowed in the night, while I fanned myself
with cardboard and read by a light strapped to my head.
I was never so happy than when the BARC guys showed up
in my driveway. They’d been at it for 14 hours a day for six days, yet
they managed to smile and joke around and do their job quickly and
Here’s the quirky thing: A couple of them didn’t have
power back at their own homes yet. Now, isn’t that the truest
demonstration of “cooperative living”? You bet! And thanks.