Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our First Derecho

As the power returns to our Annandale home, the boys have settled in to some air-conditioned summer SpongeBob watching, and I've returned to blogging.   The past few days of sweltering through heat were made tolerable by a decent emergency plan in our household.  We had water, and a large reserve of canned food we didn't even need to touch, and a propane powered grill that's provided us with hot meals and hot water for french-press coffee.  Oh, and a handy little emergency power supply.

What was unsettling about the event was that for all of my 43 years, I did not have a frame of reference that let me grasp what was happening.  Friday night we were expecting  storm activity, but when things happened, it didn't meet any of my expectations.  It woke us, and with the waking, it was clear it was not an ordinary storm.  The house thrummed and shook as wind and rain and hail battered it.  The trees in our neighborhood rocked and shook wildly, and the sky lit with endless, constant lightning and thunder.   As the power went out, it felt for a moment like we had inadvertently wandered into some apocalyptic film, or a scene in some old Star Trek where a high-energy plasma storm was sweeping across the Enterprise.   "We've lost all power, Cap'n!  She's dead in the water!"

Then there was the sound.  The thunder was so frequent it blended into a roar, which mingled with the wind, which mingled with the rice-krispies-of-the-Titans sound of trees snapping, crackling and popping.

 It was genuinely alarming.

"What is it, dad," shouted my panicked little guy, as we hustled downstairs to the security of cinderblock with the dog and the emergency power brick in tow.   "I don't know," I said, because I didn't.   It wasn't a tornado.  The wind wasn't right for that.  It wasn't a regular storm.  I was at a loss.  I genuinely had no idea what was happening.  "I don't know" is a hard thing for a dad to say in an emergency.  For another ten minutes, the whatever-it-was raged, diminished, then raged...and then passed on.

Now, I know the name of it.  We all got to learn a new word: derecho.

There are some great sites describing the derecho, but it's basically a heat-driven atmospheric energy event.  To visualize it, think of something that's basically a tornado laid on its side, stretched out over 100 miles or more, and that just blasts its way across the landscape.   In the case of this one, a long way across the landscape.  It's not precise, but that's the net effect.

As I rode to church through thirty-five miles of nonstop devastation, I found myself thinking many things.  One was that my family is going to need to upgrade our emergency plan.  But I thought other things.   I thought that the the global-warming deniers and the party that panders to them had better hope this doesn't happen again.

When you've hitched your wagon to the monied industrial interests who are trying to shill us that climate change isn't real, and that there's nothing to see, just keep buying/burning fuel...well...a few of these events might make people realize you're the enemy of the future of human civilization.

Rhetoric and ideology mean very little in the face of a Creation that is hell-bent on setting the balance straight.