The Roanoke Derecho

The wind started to howl outside my window in  Salem, Virginia around 9:20 PM on Friday, June 29th, 2012. The sound was haunting; our Bradford Pear out front was making noises that trees are not supposed to make. It sounded like the deck of an old wooden ship, creaking as it was battered by the waves. Only these were waves of wind, not water. In fact, not a drop of rain came down at our house. It was a very odd storm.

It’s really hard to see much in the video, but turn your sound up. I was hanging on to the front door frame of my house, holding my iPhone out on the porch.

Shortly thereafter, the house went dark and silent. We thought the power would be off for an hour or two, maybe even until morning. After all, it had been 104°F in the Roanoke Valley that afternoon-hot enough to generate quite a storm.






On the drive home from work I jokingly snapped a picture of my car thermometer and texted it to my son, who had gone to Michigan to attend Electric Forest.

No one guessed that we’d be without power through days of 100°+ heat, finally getting it back in the early morning hours of July 4th.  To compound the situation, my 85 year old mother had just been released from the hospital with a heart problem…into a home with no power in 100° heat. Luckily, we are longtime hunters and fisherman in this family, and we had a small generator from hunting camp. It ran our refrigerator and a fan, which was aimed right at Granny.

Independence Day took on a whole new meaning to us-after this experience we decided we needed some independence from relying completely on the power company. We’ve started investigating alternative sources of power because we never want to go through this again. The family was getting cranky. We were cooped up in extreme heat and no one could sleep in those conditions. Each day got our tempers grew shorter.

Workers came from all over the eastern US to help repair the damage.  The local and not-so-local workers are much appreciated. They worked 16 hour shifts in extreme heat and they are still working as I write this.




Many families are still in homes with no electricity as of July 5th. There are thousands more than the chart shows in surrounding Counties.

The Roanoke Times’ Kevin Myatt confirmed that wind gusts were clocked at 81MPH at the Roanoke Regional Airport. Trees were uprooted, homes were smashed, fires started and so far, 11 Virginians have died storm related deaths.  Six more have died from the heat.

This evening,  (7/5/12) another thunderstorm came through and knocked the power back out in Vinton, Rocky Mount, and downtown Roanoke. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

West Riverside Drive in Salem










Of course, there are many worse problems in the world than sitting in a house with no power.  However, this was one problem my family could have been better prepared for, and we learned a lesson. What will you do differently to prepare for another storm?

Here is what we will stock up on:

  • Lanterns with batteries  
  • A good quality cooler
  • Extra batteries-especially “D” size
  • Containers of water
  • Canned  food
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Cash
  • Gasoline
  • First-aid kit
  • A generator
  • Candles/matches
  • Battery powered fans
  • Kerosene or propane heaters
  • Note: It’s important to know how to manually operate an electric garage door
  • Note: Meteorologist Jamey Singleton does a truly excellent job at giving Roanoke Valley residents advance notice when severe storms are approaching. 
Feel free to comment with your suggestions for being better prepared.



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