How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Weekly Column: Five Lessons from the Derecho of 2012

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of July 2, 2012
Five Lessons From The Derecho of 2012


The storm of June 29, 2012 will go down as one of the more memorable moments of Mother Nature in the Lee-Mount Vernon Area. I pulled into my drive way around 9:30 p.m. while listening to WTOP. There was no mention of a pending storm. Within an hour, the trees in my yard were wildly swinging around. After we lost power and my natural gas generator didn’t automatically come on, I ventured outside to turn it on manually and the battery exploded. Lesson #1 – Stay inside the house during a Derecho.

While everyone in the 44th District will probably not be fully restored by the time this newspaper is delivered, substantial progress has been made on restoration of service. If you continue to have difficulty getting service restored, please contact my office at 571.249.44TH(4484) and we will do our best to get you assistance.


Through Monday night, my legislative aide, Megan Howard, had fielded at least forty constituent service calls. No one was angry or rude. Everyone seemed to understand the magnitude of the storm and the difficultly with restoring power. Lesson #2 – my constituents are patient and caring people. I want to thank everyone this week for the patience and understanding they showed with the situation, and with all the help you gave your neighbors. These events bring out the best in people.

I also want to thank Dominion Power who provided updates about every twelve hours and had live outage maps so everyone could see that they were not alone in Northern Virginia. Lesson #3 – information dissemination is critical. Please make sure you sign up for my email list so I can get information out to you in the future.

Going forward, please remember that the Commonwealth of Virginia regulates insurance. If anyone has difficulty with insurance claims, do not hesitate to contact my office in case we need to ask the Bureau of Insurance to intervene in any coverage disputes.

Lesson #4 – Climate change is real. The evidence of climate change is overwhelming. I’ve never seen a Derecho like this living here for 40 years. Hurricanes are more frequent, flowers come up in March, massive wildfires are spawning out West, 15,000 temperature records were broken in March, 2012, and 1928 temperature records broken between June 24-30. This will not be the last Derecho I see in my lifetime.
As we struggled with power outages, this event also reminded me of Hurricane Isabel in 2003. In my community of Tauxemont, we went without power for seven days and because we are on a separate water system and had no generator, that also meant going without water. You never realize how important water is until you don’t have it.

Isabel was also fresh in my mind for another reason. In 2011, the General Assembly enacted legislation deregulating various aspects of home telephone service including the requirement that Verizon string a hard wire line to every new home if there is “adequate” wireless phone service.

I was one of only 28 Delegates and 11 Senators who voted against this legislation. Most “no” votes were from rural areas. I remember sitting on the floor wondering how people were supposed to call 911 if they cell phone battery was dead or a cell phone tower was out.

Mobile phone service was practically non-existent in the aftermath of this storm and often it took me 10 minutes to get a call through. Ten minutes is the difference between life and death in an emergency. Lesson #5 – call me a curmudgeon, but there is no such this as “adequate” wireless phone service.

Land lines still have their place today and people ought to have the choice to have one if they want without being charged a fortune. Verizon is still not happy with me because of my vote on that bill, but this storm is a classic example of why we should have never passed that legislation. I hope we revisit this issue, but big business tends to run the agenda in Richmond and I doubt it will come back up.

In the aftermath of the Derecho of 2012, please let me know if there are any issues I can help your family resolve. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. 

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