Examining Storm Damage In Virginia

Jul 3, 2012
Originally published on July 3, 2012 5:51 am



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

People in states from the Midwest to the Atlantic are still dealing with the damage and power outages from Friday night's derecho. That's the name for the line of storms which swept through with shearing winds and intense lightening. Chicago was among the cities hit by a second severe storm on Sunday. We'll get an update from there in a moment.

We begin with this report from Charlottesville, from Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF in Virginia.

SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: Business at Panera Bread on Charlottesville's north side is often good, but lately management has been forced to chase people away. Hordes of refugees from the storm have taken up temporary residence, reveling in the air conditioning, running water, flush toilets and Wi-Fi.

GORDON MERRICK: The power's out at home and at the office, so I have my office here today.

HAUSMAN: Gordon Merrick, of nearby Earlysville, has hunkered down with his laptop, hoping to forget the primitive conditions he left behind.

MERRICK: We're sleeping in the basement, carting water from the pool to the bathrooms.

HAUSMAN: Merrick and his brother Tim live just a few miles away, and they know that many parts of the county have gotten power back. But they don't torture themselves with the obvious question - why us?

TIM MERRICK: It's the luck of the draw.

HAUSMAN: Actually, there's a bit more to why some areas get service back sooner than others. Dominion Power spokesman Carl Baab says densely populated areas have a real advantage at times like this.

CARL BAAB: Obviously we work on the repairs first that will bring the most people on at one time.

HAUSMAN: That's not all. Shortly after the windstorm hit, 79 hospitals in Virginia were forced to use generators for life-saving power, and they're at the top of Dominion's list, followed by nursing homes, assisted living centers and water pumping stations. People who live near those facilities are often in luck.

Crews from 13 states and Canada are now working in Virginia to restore power, but Fire Chief Dan Eggleston says Albemarle County won't see many of them.

DAN EGGLESTON: Keep in mind, we also have significant losses in Northern Virginia, in the Richmond area, that they take priority as well.

HAUSMAN: Eggleston says the Merricks' rural neighborhood, with its large trees and long driveways, may have to wait.

EGGLESTON: We have just lots of trees entangled in wires and cable and phone lines, are all combined together in just a huge mess.

HAUSMAN: And cleaning up that mess is complicated by the fact that the state transportation department and the electric company must coordinate the removal of downed trees and power lines.

For NPR News, I'm Sandy Hausman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

LAUREN CHOOLJIAN, BYLINE: I'm Lauren Chooljian. I'm in West Chicago. And I'm standing behind what's normally a very beautiful park, I'm told. But now there are hundreds of tree branches down and cars keep coming by, over and over again, to swing by, see what the damage is. And frankly, a lot of them can't believe it.

ANITA KOCH: I lived right across the street from here.

CHOOLJIAN: That's Anita Koch. She now lives a few towns over and the sight of the park brings her to tears.

KOCH: I loved this park. I walked every morning and I walked past here and this park was absolutely beautiful. And I had to come check it out. And I wanted to check on my old neighbors too.

CHOOLJIAN: Her neighbors were fine, but the park isn't doing so well.

ERIC ELFSTROM: And this is really good compared to yesterday. You should have seen it yesterday, the street - every single street was impassable.

CHOOLJIAN: Eric Elfstrom and his son live just a few blocks north. They're worried the damage will affect the big Fourth of July celebration that's usually held right here.

ELFSTROM: There's still lots of trees standing, obviously. But man, there's a lot gone.

CHOOLJIAN: Crews have been removing branches and debris all over this area. Sunday afternoon saw quite the combination of 90 mile per hour winds and wild thunderstorms. The damage in Kim DiPirros' yard is extensive.


KIM DIPIRROS: I can't even see my grass. It's all covered with limbs and trunks that are so big that we can't even haul off ourselves.

CHOOLJIAN: And then there's the sweltering heat. Temperatures in the Chicago region don't seem to want to drop below 90 any day soon. Some people, like the DiPirros, have generators running at full speed. You can hear them all around West Chicago.

DIPIRROS: You have to be lucky to have one. Because it's going to be 95 and some of these folks across the way, they don't have one. And if you go to Menards right now, you're not going to find one.

CHOOLJIAN: Residents expect several more days of dangerous heat.

For NPR news, I'm Lauren Chooljian, in Chicago.

WERTHEIMER: Lauren comes to us from member station WBEZ. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.