Sunday, July 27, 2008

It was a Derecho

It was 6 am on July 21 when I would be awakened by what I then assumed was another early morning summer thunderstorm. I heard the loud cracks of thunder and saw the sharp lightening. The storm was obviously moving very quickly right over head. The power went out and I heard what I thought was hail being pummeled against my bedroom window and side of house. I reached for my dog Dexter and just held onto and cuddled him until the storm had passed. It was pitch dark for a few minutes except for the vivid lightening which seemed to be almost in the room with us. I told myself its too dark to head for the basement and besides tornadoes do not happen at 6 am in the morning.

Well it wasn't a tornado. It was a derecho. A word I had never heard before and a storm I will never forget as long as I live. See links that follow Info about derecho From a local TV Meteorologist.
More facts about this very damaging kind of windstorm

While I waited for the storm to pass, little did I know of the damage that was occurring all around me. Link follows.. A 4 year old boy and his 9 month old sister who had just hours previously been enjoying a camping vacation with their family at a local campground; Dustin Steub, would lose his life that morning. His little sister Savannah remains on life support at a Peoria Hospital where she was taken after the storm.

Over 130,000 were losing their power and phone service for days. At first it looked like 72 hours and 480 plus utility workers were going to be enough to get us all fixed up. It didn't take long however to realize that the amount of trees down and utility poles and wires tangled together etc. were going to require much more help from Out of State Utilities and Tree Services. My Power was restored on Wednesday Evening by a crew from Michigan. My phone service was restored on Saturday evening by a Telephone worker from the Springfield Illinois area.

Foodstuff was beginning its eventual decline into spoilage and will in a few hours be thrown away in such quantities as to necessitate special collection bins around the city for sanitation purposes. Tuesday afternoon would find many a Freezer and Refrigerator empty. Folks preparing for their Monday morning commute would find that the traffic lights at the busy intersections all over the Quad Cites but especially the Illinois side would not be working. The streets would be covered with trees, limbs, utility poles and wires. Many streets would be totally closed.

Those who had had a busy weekend and needed to stop for gas on their way to work would soon discover there was no gas pumping going on at least not in Rock island or Moline. Grocery stores would tape off their frozen food section awaiting refrigerator trucks to come and load the frozen food items to avoid as much spoilage as possible. Generators would fire up and folks would dash between sirens (including myself) to get to batteries and ice to get through what we thought would be a long several hours and perhaps even a day or maybe two. Link follows Hospitals would go onto emergency generators to maintain critical patient care. All elective and non emergency care would be rescheduled.

Nightfall had an eerie kind of still and intense darkness about it. It was very warm and humid. I found myself propped in a lounge chair by the window where a small birdhouse had survived the storm. Sights and sounds of new life and birds caring for their young was a welcome relief. I yearned for a cool breeze. By midnight or so it was cool enough to get some sleep. I did stay out on my sofa as I had all the windows wide open and felt like I had a better sense of what was going on in the rest of the house form that room. I am not at all one to go to sleep with windows open even in the summer in the Quad Cities. The usual small percentage of jerks who prey on the hard times of others were in fact making themselves at home to several area businesses whose alarm systems etc had been compromised.

Tuesday would find it my turn to head to the shelter. I can not ever find a better group of folks to work with than those with whom I work. And when times get even tougher at a Crises can tell that the workers there also love their jobs and the folks they have come to serve. I could not even get down the street to the shelter which was quite a shock in broad daylight and I am glad I did not have to come in the dark. I found myself driving through a huge parking lot also littered with debris and past a car dealership whose huge front windows are also blown out and plywood has been placed in there temporarily. Pictures of the street the shelter is on are in the video. Several poles and a couple of trees still lie untouched some 30 hours later on Tuesday at 3:30 pm as I head to work. Utility Crews now number over 1000 from 9 states and these folks are working 16 hours on and 8 off trying to help us get up and running again. It is going to be a very long week. I left that night to head home with 2 shelter workers in place “womaned” with flashlights and a very hot shelter. Windows were open where safety would permit. Meanwhile I hoped to actually find my way back home without encountering trees or poles still in the streets now that pitch darkness had once again fallen on much of the Quad Cities for the second night in a row. I so wanted a nice cold drink, but found myself running water in the kitchen to try to get it a little colder and eating a banana. I sat down next to the birdhouse noises again with a candle and battery radio and prepared for my second night in the living room hoping for a cool breeze and no “neighborhood unwelcome visitors”.

As of Sunday Evening there are only a few hundred now without power. If you are one of those folks you have indeed had the most difficult week of all; Except for, a vacationing family from Springfield who places the funeral for Dustin on hold until they know more about the outcome for 9 month old Savannah. They have in fact had the most heart wrenching week of all. Info on donations to help this family will be forthcoming unless I can locate it before I publish this article. The Quad Cities is also organizing a benefit to help this family. For most reading this, the storm was a long way away from you. BUT the loss of one and perhaps 2 of your children does not fall far from the heart of anyone..especially a parent. If you are looking for someone to help and have the means I would encourage you to consider this family.
Want to Help?

Anyone wishing to make a donation to help the Stuebs family can do so at any Link follows Marine Bank branch in Springfield Illinois. Checks can be made to the Stuebs Family Benefit. Link on Marine Bank has address info.

Here is my storm video. It can be watched on Fullscreen if you click on go to you Tube. Many of the pictures here you will recognize to some degree if you have read the story here that proceeds the video.


Joyce said...

I have never heard of this type of a storm before. I am amazed at the powerful grip it had. Those are large trees that are snapped in two! I am thanking God for His protection over you during such a violent outbreak.

Also praying for the family that lost their son camping.

IrisF said...

Never heard of a Derecho before either, but from your photos, that is what Megan(Floralgirl) had at her place in the spring...Trees snapped off (big ones) and some uprooted too. 100 mph winds bring damage whatever causes them!!! Praise the Lord that you and Dex were not harmed! But, my heart and prayers go out to the Steubs Family, that is so very, very sad.
This is a wonderful narrative Glo, makes me feel almost like I was there!

movin said...

I also was ignorant of the derecho, Glo.

You have given us a powerful, immediate and very moving personal description of this storm and its aftermath.

Thank you very much, and I'm glad you and your friends and family are safe.

[Question: Did they sound the storm and tornado warning devices before this derecho??]


Costume Lady said...

AMAZING video, Glo. All I could think of was the trees. Houses can be repaired, but the huge, beautiful trees cannot. This is just a reminder that Mother Nature is in charge.