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Last Friday’s storm started in the Midwest and took about 12 hours to reach and ravage Rappahannock County. Along the way, millions of people were left without power. With the exception of hurricanes and other tropical storms, according to Dominion Virginia Power, the unusual line of storms caused the worst power outages in the state’s history. At least 18 people – though none in Rappahannock – were killed by the storm, most by falling trees.
The storm’s power was still visible on Tuesday in the still-standing, twisted and torn tree trunks and limbs along the county’s roads, even though the limbs and branches were now cut and cleared for cars and trucks.
This type of unusually strong line of storms is called a “derecho,” from the Spanish word for “straight,” since the fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms is in the form of a squall line. In the northern hemisphere, derechos are usually spawned in the heat of June and July.
The heat not only caused the storm but also became the source of the severe aftershocks of the storm here in the county, as most residents and businesses lost electric power and thus the use of air-conditioning and fans to keep cool, and the work of restoring power and clearing downed trees had to proceed in consistent 90-degree-plus temperatures.
As of Sunday evening, still more than half of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s 4,816 customers in the county were without power. By Tuesday afternoon, when this holiday-delayed newspaper went to press, about 700 meters were still affected – and REC issued an announcement that round-the-clock repairs would continue through the holiday.
Consequences? From one part-time resident’s emailed note that said, “We’re moving back to Alexandria,” to the “Cool Inside” sign, posted as usual Saturday on the door of open-daily R.H. Ballard’s in Washington, varying amounts of recovery will be necessary, but in the end life will go on.