Living in the shadow of storms

As the cruise-in event in the Elkins Depot today kicks off the town’s Fourth of July festivities – including a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m., the first Martin Street Fair today and Saturday, and the 29th Mountain State Street Machine Car Show on Saturday and Sunday – some may take a moment from the holiday fun to think back to what happened one year ago.

On June 29, 2012, as local residents and car enthusiasts from around the region gathered at the Depot to enjoy fireworks, the blue sky turned cloudy and high winds began to blow. People ran for cover as a severe storm, which it seemed no one knew was coming, pounded the town.

The electricity was knocked out by the fast-moving storm, and within an hour people went from enjoying the last moments of a sunny evening to driving around a darkened, drenched town with no streetlights or traffic signals.

The power was back on in Elkins by the next afternoon, but it took days for electricity to be restored to some surrounding areas. Meetings were held to discuss how to plan for such a calamity should it happen again. We all learned a new word – derecho – and comforted each other by noting that at least the destructive storm hadn’t happened in winter.

Exactly three months later – Oct. 29, 2012 – Superstorm Sandy smashed the East coast, leaving thousands in our region without power. Even worse, many were without heat, and Sandy had brought bone-chilling temperatures and heavy, wet snow with her.

Once again, meetings were held and discussions convened about how to limit the bad effects of such weather calamities. Since then, many changes have been made, from improvements in communications systems to providing generators for local fire stations, most of which can now serve as temporary shelters during an emergency.

Another change wrought by last year’s two major storms has been to the local psyche. It seems we all are now living in the shadows of the derecho and Sandy. Every weather report predicting a storm system will approach our area prompts a fresh wave of anxiety. None of us want to go through another extreme weather event, but we all feel sure it will happen again at some point.

The best we can do is be prepared, and make sure to enjoy our lives and not be psyched out by fear and paranoia about the weather. Our suggestion: take in the fireworks and Street Fair tonight and the Car Show Saturday. Have some fun. We didn’t get to enjoy these activities during last year’s holiday weekend, so let’s savor them now.