Scientists are calling the straight-line of fierce winds and thunderstorms that ravaged the Washington metropolitan area last Friday night a derecho. The storm traveled nearly 700 miles in 12-hours and destroyed millions of homes or left them badly damaged with thousands of households without power. The storm started in Illinois and progressed eastward cutting through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. For residents and scientists, alike, it was the worst thunderstorm many have ever experienced.
As residents repair and begin to literally pick up the pieces of what's left of their homes and their personal possessions, life for many goes on, but not without the thought of how close we are to total and imminent disaster. The derecho left people without access to gasoline, working traffic signals, stores or post offices and most importantly electricity to charge cell phones and preserve exorbitantly priced perishable foods that had to be discarded due to the lack of electricity. Hospitals, police stations and other emergency systems also felt the brunt of the storm.
The lesson so many are learning is the need for an emergency plan. It's something that shouldn't be taken for granted as an increasing number of weather-related catastrophes continue to occur. Two years ago, the D.C. metropolitan area experienced "Snowmageddon", a blizzard that blanketed the metropolitan area with 18-to-32 inches of wet and heavy snow over the course of 32 hours. The storm impacted nearly 250,000 Washington area households, and in 2011, an earthquake rocked and obliterated many District homes and damaged historic landmarks that included the Washington Monument which remains closed for repairs, and the National Cathedral, followed just days later by Hurricane Irene. The storm roared up the eastern seaboard and killed dozens and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.
These extreme weather conditions are a fact of life that we may have to get used to, whether one believes in global warming, or not. What's necessary is an emergency plan that should be put in place today.