Welcome to Global Warming
The battery on my laptop still has a charge, so I will write this while I can. It is Sunday morning. Friday was the hottest June day in DC history, and a little column of storms came across the Middle Atlantic region, left to right, with winds up to 80 mph, they are saying. The heat provided energy to the storms and they tore this place up from top to bottom.
It was about a half hour of heavy wind and rain and constant lightning. I stood out on my front porch during the worst of it, until the tree across the street from me spilt and fell across a bunch of high-power electrical wires. Then I realized it was absolutely unsafe to be anywhere near those winds. The air was thick with debris and rain pellets swirling, it was like a violent cloud of flying knife-blades, and I went inside. The family decided the living room was the safest, and we sat with the trembling dogs until the lightning and wind subsided.
This is Sunday morning. My neighborhood in Rockville is a disaster. Last night we drove around and looked, and I took a few pictures. There are dozens of trees down, almost every block has a tree that has lost a major limb or has fallen entirely. Many houses had damage. Power lines are down everywhere. They are saying that four million people lost power initially, and that three million still did not have it last night. We are one of those three million. No one in our part of town had power. Businesses were closed, even gas stations couldn't pump gas. There was one station near the Twinbrook Metro yesterday, and it had a line around the block.
Last night the lights came on at our house for about one minute. It was weird, I had been outside looking at how strange it is when all the houses are dark, and as I walked back toward my house it suddenly lit up, along with all the others up and down the street. I went upstairs and turned the air conditioning on but it only lasted a minute. But it gives you a kind of hope, you know that they at least can restore the electricity. Someday things will work again.
It is so hot. We slept in the living room last night because the upstairs is unbearable, but the downstairs was no good, either. We opened the windows but there was no wind, it was one of those warm, still, humid summer nights when the sweat forms a film on your skin and your hair sticks together in clumps. I had a long pointless dream that went on for hours, it was about being disorganized and aimless. I fell into a hole with a cat and a fish.
The one thing you notice is that nobody is doing anything. Some people were outside looking at debris and fallen trees yesterday, but these are too big to chop up with an ordinary chainsaw, and there is no electricity for power tools. I have not seen a single Pepco truck, or anybody from the city, the county, or the state. Not even driving around with a notepad. Across from me the tree snapped in half and fell through the power lines, the trunk is nearly two feet in diameter where it broke. A neighbor who was standing out there yesterday and seemed to know something said that one of the lines was a fifteen-thousand volt line, and two of them were two-hundred twenty volts. They are just hanging there, over the sidewalk. A lady sat there with her four kids, waiting for a bus, saying, "Get away from those power lines!" over and over.
I heard on the radio yesterday that the utility companies are going to take a couple of days to assess the damage, and that it might take a week to get the power back on. They must be assessing the damage digitally or something, looking at some computer screen in a comfortable office somewhere, because they sure are not driving around seeing what the damage is. Around the corner from us there is a power pole snapped in half, the top part dangling over a neighborhood street, held in place my taut wires. That was weird, the maple tree had had four distinct gigantic branches snapped off, each one at least a foot in diameter. A house was damaged, the fence ruined, power lines ripped down.
It will be interesting to see what happens. It's too much for people to do themselves, but there does not appear to be any official response at all. I did not hear a single chain saw yesterday and I don't hear any today. Normally at this time on a Sunday morning you would hear a lawnmower somewhere but there is no sound, only a few cars driving, and somebody has a generator.
Clumps of neighbors stand around and discuss it, but we don't know anything. Luckily my own property is in pretty good shape and none of us were hurt. We had a giant maple tree that hung over the house and it began to worry us so we had it cut down this past year, it is just a pile of mulch now and that is good news. There is a little bit of debris in our yard but nothing damaged. We bought gas that night before the storm, not knowing how glad we would be. There is no place to go, but at least we have phone chargers that work in the car, so we can stay in touch with relatives. People are losing the charge on the phones, their laptops and tablets, and there is no Internet connection available anyway. I am writing this, hoping that I will be able to find a wifi location later and post it. I know many of our readers are having similar experiences.
So far it is bearable. We have food, water, gas, and the landline telephone still works. If the electricity would come back on, honestly, our lives would be back to normal. As it is, I am sitting here in the kitchen without a shirt on, in shorts, sweating and waiting for something to happen, waiting for Pepco to do their job. Maybe the next time the lights come on they will stay on, and the air conditioning can do its job, too.
Update 1PM Sunday:
A Rockville city truck came by, picking up pieces of debris that did not have power lines in them. They put yellow tape around the tree across from me, after I pointed it out to them. We drove over to Lake Forest mall in Gaithersburg, where two cherry-pickers and a pickup truck for a Pepco contractor were sitting unoccupied in the parking lot at 11:30. We saw one crew working on a power line along Veirs Mill. No sounds of chainsaws, but many people who had smaller limbs down have chopped them up and stacked the wood.
Some areas don't look too bad. It looks like our neighborhood, the Twinbrook Forest section of Rockville, has been hit harder than some other nearby areas. There is a giant tree down in front of the Glenview Mansion, blocking Baltimore Road, with no crew, nobody doing anything besides gawking. Many other streets around here are blocked by trees and power lines hanging across them. Some neighbors have made cardboard signs and hung bright things on the lines so you will see them where they cross the road.
We were able to get gas without waiting in line, so that crisis appears to have resolved.
I am tired from sleeping on the couch last night, perspiring and dreaming restlessly. And this is really strange: my wife was sleeping on the tile floor downstairs, and it was so humid and hot that the glue melted on the back of a framed sampler on the wall and it fell in the middle of the night and landed on her head. Since most traffic lights are out, I notice that I tend to stop and go through red lights that are actually working. My wife is not amused by this. It is sweltering hot inside our house, I think we will have to take the dogs somewhere eventually. I hate to impose, I would much prefer to have the power come back on. Pepco says ninety percent of people will have it by Friday. Friday. I hope we don't have to wait that long.
Update 3:30 Sunday:
Nothing new. No chainsaws, no cherry-pickers, no electricity. It's 80 degrees in the house, which is not comfortable at all. The dogs are staying quiet, they seem okay but if it gets much hotter we will take them in the car and run the AC for a while. Barnes and Noble seems to be open, I saw a bunch of people sitting in the window upstairs using their laptops, so I might be able to get in there and connect to the Internet for a minute to post this, so people can add their comments. I'm down to 40% power, I am sure there won't be an electrical outlet available at the book store. Maybe tomorrow I will be ablde to charge the computer battery at work, if they're open.
Update 4:30 Sunday:
Barnes and Noble's wifi has a lot of people on it and it's very slow but if you are reading this then it works. A lady just recognized me from the band, she says she is our biggest fan. I am lucky enough to have my laptop plugged into 110 volts, and it is charging very slowly, now it's up to 20 percent charged. As usual I hope that when I go home the lights will be on and the air conditioner will be blowing cool, refreshing air into the house.