Severe Straight-Line Winds

Who would have thought a straight line wind system coming from the Midwest, and generated, fueled and propelled by the high temperatures and humidity could cause so many issues.  They can be as powerful and deadly as tornadoes.

As I write this, 2 days after the incident occurred suddenly and violently, we are still without power. The wind hit like someone had turned on a switch, and a powerful one at that. The first indication was the wind, which came on suddenly, and sounded loud and violent.  When we saw it was bending the 60-80 ft. tall trees I have on my property, we headed for the basement.

The basement was for shelter not only the storm but also the rain, lightning and thunder which followed those winds. The winds reached 71 miles an hour (anything over 58 mph is considered severe) at Dulles International Airport and that’s just short of a hurricane velocity (Category 1 hurricane starts at 75mph). I knew this was incident was possible, only because for some reason I turned on the 6PM news that night. I don’t usually do that.  And I admit I was struggling to fully understand what they meant by a fast and dangerous “straight line wind” headed our way. Now I know.


Not only are we still without power, but we are without internet service as well. This also means no television service and no phone service for those who have the bundled services with the cable company. Many of the phone towers for wireless service have been down or out for one reason or another. Some of the 911 phone lines are not operating at all, traffic lights aren’t working and as of last night I heard that at least 7 people have been killed locally by storm related injuries.  Trees and pole damage is obvious, but most can’t access any information about what’s going on without power.  Ice is hard to find and at a premium cash price because even credit card processors aren’t available for charges.  The ATM’s aren’t working and neither are lots of gas stations because they cannot pump the gas out of the ground without power.  The destruction is not 100% in our area, but it is widespread  with random pockets of homes and businesses not only without power but also damaged.  Even the National Guard has been activated.

When this happened Friday night, no one thought it would take at least into Monday or Tuesday to restore power to our area. However, the electric companies are reporting many electric poles have been snapped in half. Replacing a telephone/electricity pole and moving the wires from one to the other, I am told, takes a normal crew half a day, and they have to find the broken ones first. The other reason  we’ve been told for the delay is that many of the crews could not be reached by phone to even know they should come in and work the weekend.

Usually since we have a whole house generator, our household weathers these outages with nary a concern. We function normally and conveniently and go about our daily lives. The cable service and internet hasn’t ever before been out for this long. I am glad that we purchased and installed that generator in 1999, as that generator as it has helped us in winter and in summer with power outage incidents. It’s still a wonderful help, it’s just that without the internet or phone service it’s a very different existence.

Life isn’t “normal” any longer and it makes me wonder – if the sun spots cut off or destroy the satellites, or any other incident for that matter, how prepared are we really to be cut off from the internet and that interaction with “the world”?

UPDATE:  07/02/12 – our internet and power is back on at home, but not at work.  Without internet, our business cannot process our orders, or do our shipping tags for UPS or USPS.  Worse, we cannot get through to the internet provider as all we get is a busy signal on the phone. Thirty minutes of “storm”, three plus days to recover.

UPDATE 2 : 07/03/12 – we have internet at work!  However the news is reporting that some residents won’t have power till this weekend.  Crews have come from as far away as Canada to help restore power.  Washington DC has even sent buses to neighborhoods without power that will just sit there with their air conditioning on to help with the heat.  It’s hot today, but it’s going to continue to be hot throughout the week.  The last time this happened in this area was 1980 – and it proved that the basic underlying power grid isn’t engineered to handle this type of weather event.