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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Super Windstorm Experience, told by Karen G.

Karen and Doyle G. picked a terrible time to move from the Raleigh, North Carolina, area.  First, it was a record-breaking 107 degrees that day.  Next, Doyle, driving their U-haul truck, and Karen, driving their car, left Morrisville late in the evening, Friday June 29, 2012, to drive to the Washington D.C. area to visit two of their children before moving west.  Little did they know that they were heading straight into a devastating windstorm, the "Super Derecho of 2012".

Karen called me on Sunday from Washington D.C. and told me of their experience.  Since it was a phone call, I took notes as fast as I could, I hope I don’t make too many mistakes in retelling their story.

Karen said, “Amy, maybe you have been through disasters in your life, but this was the WORST DISASTER I have EVER lived through.  I have to tell you so that you can tell people on your blog.”

“We left Morrisville Friday night to get to D.C.  Our son and daughter-in-law had come to D.C. to go to the temple.  We have another son that lives in D.C., and he was moving to a new house nearby.”

“We had been busy packing, so had never heard any weather reports.  By the time we got to Richmond, gigantic trees were falling on the roads.  These trees were large, with huge branches and full of leaves, the fallen treetops were about the size of four cars in width.”

“We had left Morrisville so much later than we had planned, it was about 1:00 a.m. and there were all these trees on the roads.  Most cars were staying in the right hand land because the trees were in the left hand lane.  Cops kept going by us, and stopping and putting flares in front of the trees.”

“By the time we got to Richmond, the Spirit said to me, STOP.  So we stopped and got a hotel, even though we had already paid with our credit card to hold one farther along.”

“Doyle’s U-haul truck had been weaving all over the road because the wind was so bad.  At that time, we thought the storm was local.  We had no idea it was so widespread, (later found out it covered Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania.)”

“We slept 4 hours, and got up early, still trying to get to D.C. to babysit so our son and his wife could go to the temple.  Our son finally left the kids with his wife and went to the temple by himself, and found that the temple was closed because of all the trees down.”

(Karen said they attended a D.C. ward on Sunday, and heard someone tell in his  testimony that several temple patrons had come from far away to do their own temple work or to be sealed or maybe married on Saturday, and that people in that ward had sacrificed much to get to the temple grounds and clear the limbs and trees so those people could go through the temple.  The temple had to use a generator to run that one session, and everything else on Saturday was cancelled.)

“When we finally got to the hotel we had originally planned to stay in, it was Saturday morning at 10 am.  We had reserved it with our credit card, but since we hadn’t gotten there they had given our room away.  We thought we could get it for Saturday night.  They said their hotel had power, so it was full.  They said that with a disaster this size, all the locals immediately fill up the hotels because they don’t want to stay in their homes without electricity.  So by Saturday morning at 10 am all the hotels were full.”

(Karen was telling me this on Sunday from D.C.) 

“The radio here says that there are 1.5 million without power in D.C.  They are telling them that some of them won’t have power until Friday July 6.  So many traffic lights are out.  You cannot believe how impossible it is for a 4-lane road to intersect with another 4-lane road without any stoplights.  There is no protocol, no one knows how to get through that.  Besides the traffic lights being out, there are many, many roadblocks, with yellow caution tape, because of trees across the road.  It took us an hour and a half to go what should have been 20 minutes.”

Karen called me later on Sunday night to tell me more.

“We went to sacrament meeting today, we just randomly picked an LDS church building to go to, and we were lucky because it was the only ward in the whole area that was having sacrament meeting.  After that, everyone went home because even though the building had electricity, they didn’t have air conditioning.

“I heard of so many problems with generators.  The radio is announcing that several families are hospitalized, these families almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning because of using their generators incorrectly.  One put their generator in the basement.  One put their generator on the front porch, but the exhaust came in through the door.  Another put their generator outside, but it was too close to the house and caught the house on fire and burned it down.  The radio announcer said to be sure to get a carbon monoxide monitor if you have a generator.”

“Today there are grocery stores rationing how much ice or water they will sell to you.  

“I just want to tell everyone that at first we thought everything was so awful, because our one son couldn’t go to the temple, and our other son couldn’t rent his U-haul to move, then we realized that our troubles were so small in comparison to everyone else’s.  We had no idea the storm was so large.”

“Everything worked out great for us.  We got a hotel room because someone else had reserved it and didn’t show up.  Our son who was moving just stayed in his old house for a few extra days, it had power and his new house didn’t.”

 (I can’t remember what Karen said about her other son’s family, I’m sure she had some news about them but I didn’t write it down.)

When she called me Sunday night, she was driving through West Virginia.

“In West Virginia some water treatment plants got messed up so they are ordering the people here to boil their water.”

“I thought of something else I wanted to tell you.  The cell phone situation was awful on Friday night and Saturday.  When we woke up in our hotel early Saturday morning, we still  had to drive four hours to D.C.  The cell phone kept cutting off.  I couldn’t phone my husband, who was driving the truck right in front of me.  I couldn’t tell my son he would have to be late to the temple.  It was terrible not being able to communicate.  You just can’t count on cell phones during an emergency.  We found out later all the cell phone towers were messed up from the windstorm, but at that time we didn’t know.”

“My daughter would call, and I would only hear a few words and then it would cut out.  But then she would send a text message and I would get it fine.  We learned that in bad situations, text messages will get through when phone calls won’t.”

One more message from Karen.  “The hotels are filled everywhere we go.  Cambridge all full, Zanesville all full, Columbus is all full.”

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