Saturday, June 30, 2012


The western sky at dusk, viewed from U.S. Hwy. 58, just east of Martinsville, VA, 6-29-12
When I left work at 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon, it was 105 degrees in the shade. I didn't let that alter my plans to head to Danville, VA, to get in some geocaching, and then go over to Martinsville to visit Mum. First stop was Angler's Park, just east of Danville, where I put in about a mile hike and claimed a handful of caches. Yes, I took plenty of water. Hit the road to grab a few more, only to end up at the Corner Cafe in Ringgold, VA, where I went for the fabulous Friday night meatloaf special. Proprietor and fellow geocacher Keith McCoy was on hand, so we sat and yakked geocaching for a good while; then I left to make my way toward Martinsville.

The air was unbelievably humid and still, the sunset fiery and gorgeous. The weather report came on the local radio station, indicating record-breaking heat, of course, and partly cloudy skies, with only a minimal chance of scattered thunderstorms. However, not three minutes later, here comes a severe weather warning for the entire listening area, alerting us to impending violent thunderstorms and damaging winds.

Sure enough.

I arrived at Mum's just after dark and had just made a martini when I noticed the wind picking up outside; only a minute or so later, the power went out. I stepped out to the front porch and was promptly just about blown right back in. Now, every few years, a hurricane will move this far inland and hit us with some severe weather, but I don't think any hurricane I've experienced has brought winds like those that blew through town last night — at least not when I've been out in them. (This morning's Roanoke newspaper put the gusts in excess of 80 miles per hour.) There was thunder and lightning aplenty, but not a drop of rain. Mum lives in a very wooded area, and I could hear trees cracking and falling, and a couple came down with such force I thought I was hearing explosions. The energy burst lasted only a few minutes — certainly less than half an hour — and we were lucky, as no trees crashed down on the house or on my car, which was parked in the driveway.

With no air conditioning, it was a right warm night, and when I woke up at 8:00 this morning, the power was still off. I decided to go out and try to find some coffee, since I obviously wasn't going to be making any at home. I knew the winds would have done some damage, but holy Moses....

The first thing I encountered was power lines down across the road, only a quarter mile from Mum's house. Next, I saw huge trees lying in yards, branches across the roads, more lines hanging from splintered telephone poles. I essentially took a tour of the entire town of Martinsville, and there was no electricity, anywhere. Once I reached Collinsville, a few miles north, there was power — and a regular stampede of human beings looking for food, gas, water, groceries, you name it. I managed to get into McDonald's to grab coffee and some breakfast, and to their credit, they were moving the massive line through at express speed. Would that they were always so efficient!

On my way home, it finally occurred to me to take a few pictures. The worst damage I saw was a massive, 200-foot-tall tree that had crashed down on a beautiful house on Mulberry Road, but the owners asked me not to take any photographs, and I respected their wishes. The entire time I was out and about, I didn't see a single utility truck. Apparently, a large part of southwestern Virginia got hit hard, and no doubt electrical crews are taxed to the limit. The Martinsville Bulletin website has not been updated since yesterday — no doubt because they have no electricity — but I imagine it will have significant news about the storm when power is restored, which may be quite some time yet.

Addendum: The tree in question in the paragraph above: Storm damage

I headed on back to Greensboro this afternoon, after once again getting in some hiking in Danville, which appeared to have suffered considerably less damage than Martinsville. I hope I sweated off last night's meatloaf and this morning's McDonald's crap. And though my house is hotter'n hades, even with the air conditioning on, I count myself quite lucky not to have been adversely affected beyond a bit of discomfort. Quite a few folks in Martinsville — and elsewhere in southwestern Virginia — clearly were not so fortunate.

Click on the images to enlarge.

The temperature on my car thermometer at 4:30 p.m. A couple of hours earlier, it had been even hotter.
Power lines down on Indian Trail, in Martinsville
One of the big old trees that came down on Mulberry Road
The most common sight around town — big tree limbs down in people's yards.
Danville didn't get it as badly, but there were a number of trees down on the Riverwalk Trail this morning.


Caroline D. said...

Glad your mom's house was spared damage! It was a strange night last night. We too were so surprised when the weather radio alert went off, thinking it was going to be a heat advisory for today. Thankfully no damage here (northern Stokes) at home however it was all around us, but we experienced the same high wind, lightening, zero rain. And then it was gone as quickly as it arrived. DH is a vol fire fighter and his pager was one continuous emergency call after another for all around the county.

Elizabeth Massie said...

Just read this. Sounds much like what we went through....scary stuff!!! And glad your Mom's house is okay. We had to drive under/around some downed wires and it really creeped me out. You did beat us on the temp; our high was merely 103.

HemlockMan said...

Never forget:

Mother Nature is in charge.