Photo: Steve Thurston
When I stood on my front porch last Friday night and saw red and green lightning, I knew something bad was afoot. Then the wind hit, and I could pretty much feel the air pressure drop.
When I stepped back inside, my wife called down the stairs to ask if it was time to go to the basement. "Yes," I said, halfway up the stairs to rouse my son. My wife and daughter made it down ahead of us. Red lightning. I've seen green clouds, and drove under a tornado, and I've seen lightning bounce (I think from one transformer on a pole to another, then another). But multi-colored lightning? That's a new one.
(Turns out it's only new to me. It's called "Sprite" or "Sprite Lightning" in meteorological circles. It comes with little thunder, which explains why people have told me it did not seem too loud, at least at first. The storm by most accounts was a derecho storm.)
Here it is just about a week later, and Dominion Power said this morning we are down to under a thousand customers without power in northern Virginia. The county said yesterday that 11 county roads were still impassable, that 60 county employees were out with chainsaws clearing debris, that they have collected over a million pounds of debris, and that there are weeks left of clean-up.
Piles of brush punctuate every block like commas, forcing a pause and glance before moving on. Trails and parkland grounds look more like autumn than summer with the fallen leaves.
We had power the whole time, save maybe 10 minutes, so friends and their kids stayed over Saturday night, though our A/C was a bit iffy. On Sunday I borrowed their truck because I was very, nearly out of gas in my car, and I didn't know of an open gas station with working pumps.
It's amazing how used we have all gotten to stopping at blank traffic lights, and seeing rows of cones in the medians of arterial roads.
On Wednesday, I saw a man trying to cross Arlington Blvd. without the lights to help him. He was trapped on the double yellows, between a couple cones, trying to wait for a break in the traffic. I watched him helplessly as he made it safely across.
I was on my way to Home Depot where the generators powered the cash registers and emergency lighting. Everyone got a personal shopping assistant with a flashlight to lead them through the warehouse store. Mine led me to the gas cans.