Jul 3, 2012 10:24 AM WV State of Mind
Uncover West Virginia's best-kept secrets
The Big Storm
Last Friday, seemingly out of nowhere for those of us not glued to the Weather Channel, a violent and furious storm whipped through our state. Trees fell. Roofs were blown off homes. Transformers blew up as power lines came tumbling down. Water was lost. In less than an hour, more than half our state was without power. We were in the dark.
Instead of waking to the sound of an alarm clock, most of us woke to the sounds of chainsaws. Neighbors helping neighbors clear the roads. Strangers helping strangers. As I watched a steady stream of power company trucks with license plates from Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma hit our highways, I flashed back to 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi.
My family and I had just moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Having grown up in West Virginia, hurricanes and tornadoes weren’t part of our lexicon. I remember thinking that all the people who rushed to the grocery store in preparation for Hurricane Katrina were just overreacting. Jackson was two hours from the Coast—surely we were protected. We didn’t stock up on water. We didn’t have a seven-day cooler or a generator. We didn’t have a plan. We were in for a rude awakening.
We lost power and water for weeks in 100-degree temperatures. But we were lucky. Homes were flattened. Cars and boats were lodged in trees. Two-hundred-year-old oaks were twisted from their roots. The highways were impassable. We had to depend on our friends and neighbors, because we couldn’t drive home to West Virginia because there was no gas. We would get in our car and start the air conditioning just to cool off. I’ll never forget when the work crew from Michigan slowly drove down our street and restored our power. We ran out and hugged the workers. We showered them with praise. My daughter drew them pictures as a thank you.
I had never been so grateful for the kindness of strangers. Until these past few days.
As a state of emergency was declared in West Virginia, our people came together. I watched (or read) as our media professionals, utility companies, government leaders, and average folks used Twitter to help organize relief efforts in every corner of the state. I was reminded that West Virginians are compassionate and always willing to lend a helping hand. I’m moved by the gratitude being shown to our hardworking utility companies and the patience of those still awaiting help. I think we all have been reminded that we take much for granted. Air conditioning. Ice. Gas. And each other.