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Essays on Faith: Remembering the derecho

This month’s unrelenting temperatures of 90-plus degrees and today’s seven-hour power outage in our area have reminded me of one of the worst storms of my lifetime.

The North American derecho materialized unexpectedly on June 29, 2012. This powerful windstorm, which occurred in the middle of a record heat wave, left millions without power and caused widespread property damage to areas within its path.

“It’s supposed to be 100 degrees tomorrow,” said Mr. H. during dinner on June 27. I gasped at the thought.

Almost 24 hours later, the day before the derecho, my computer weather adviser read 99 degrees. I doubted it would hit the predicted 100 degrees, but later, TV news reported that it actually made it about 6 p.m. Supposedly, it would drop into the 90s the next day and stay there for a few days.

“Looks like we’re going to have nothing but sizzling days for a while,” said Mr. H.

But we couldn’t know that, along with sizzling days, there lurked something much worse.

I’d never heard the word “derecho” until I’d already suffered and, by the Grace of God, survived the fury of one of the worst. I then read in the news about the devastation it left behind.

“Friday’s classic derecho, a fast moving line of severe ‘straight-line’ winds associated with a squall of violent thunderstorms, traveled close to 700 miles in 10 hours, impacting 10 states and Washington, D.C. The storm system brought 91 mph winds, rain and lightning, disrupting electricity for as many as 4.3 million customers from North Carolina to New Jersey. The widespread blackouts are the worst in the U.S. since Hurricane Irene struck in August. Utilities said the effects were equivalent to a hurricane. The storm came in with no warning; no one had time to prepare. At least 23 people were killed,” The Associated Press reported.

As I read newspapers, watched weather reports on TV, and surveyed the devastation wreaked by this storm around the country, I couldn’t help but consider that every so often, God reminds us that He is still in control of our lives. We have no power over whatever He sets into motion.

We are totally helpless.

While the tempest raged outside my home and huge trees bowed into semicircles, I felt vulnerable and terrified. My husband and I watched in amazement as a number of enormous limbs were ripped from a large tree beside our house and flung several yards away like small sticks. If you are a God-fearing person, you were probably on your knees praying, as I was, while forceful winds threatened your home, those of your neighbors and loved ones — and your very lives.

Our old house creaked and moaned. It was difficult not to worry that the 48-year-old structure might be reduced to smithereens by the tremendous force of this terrifying monster. But thank God, it was not.

When the winds began to subside and we assessed the damage, we realized how lucky we were compared to many others. We lost part of a tree, a few shingles from the roof, and had a lot of tree branches and other debris scattered about our property. But, thankfully, we didn’t lose our electricity! Two of our children did. And both of them live only a short distance away. The outages were “spotty.” One person would be without power while his neighbor across the street wasn’t. It was uncanny.

The next morning, Saturday, my son phoned and asked if I’d take him to get ice for his cooler so he and his wife could at least have cold drinks. His car was low on gas and a friend had told him that he should wait a few hours before trying to get it because there were long lines at the pumps.

Indeed, there were.

And there was no ice to be found. We spent two hours driving in all directions hoping to find it somewhere, but there was none. Every service station lot was jammed with cars bumper to bumper waiting for gas. It was a mess.

We felt as if we were in a time warp.

Four days later, the Fourth of July, more than 1.37 million customers remained without power as utility companies struggled to respond to unexpected damage across 10 states. It took a while to set everything straight again. Surely, God blessed those who gave so much of themselves to make it happen.

The summer of 2012 will long be remembered as, “The Summer of the North American Derecho.” I shall never forget how small and insignificant I felt while in the throes of that frightening storm.

And I was given yet another reason to respect the laws of God and nature.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

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Funerals for Saturday, August 24, 2019

Barron, Dennis - 11 a.m., Airborne Church, Martinsburg.
Baylor, Elizabeth - 1 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.
Bonds Jr., Patrick - 1 p.m., King of Glory International Ministries, Charleston.
Burgess, Corey - 5 p.m., Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
Burns, Helen - 11 a.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation, Inc., Grantsville.
Caldwell, Gary - 6 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.
Casto, Carroll - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor.
Casto, Roger - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Winfield.
Duty, Fred - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.
Fisher, Bernard - 2 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.
Gwinn, Lloyd - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Habjan, Nathan - 1 p.m., Wilson-Smith Funeral Home, Clay. 
Hall, Daniel - Noon, Witcher Baptist Church.
Hinkle, Ethel - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Hoffman, Bruce - 2 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.  
Kinder, Siegel - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.
Kyler, Virgil - 11 a.m., Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Reedy.
Palmer, William - 1 p.m., Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston. 
Raynes Sr., Steven - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.
Truman, James - 2 p.m., Newton Baptist Church, Newton.
Turner, Keith - Noon, Full Gospel Assembly,  Huntington. 
Webb, Antoinette - 11 a.m., SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Oak Hill.
Wilson, Greg - Noon, Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.
Withrow, James - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.