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Back from the dark ages

July 3, 2012 - Art Smith
There is a new television show this fall called “Revolution” in which all electronics fail.

We got a real life preview of it this past week and it was not much fun.

It’s painfully aware to everyone now how reliant we have grown on electricity and the devices powered by it.

I happened to be in Washington, D.C., when the storm hit the Mid-Ohio Valley. It was a smoldering day on the National Mall, so hot in fact that it set a new record of 103 degrees. I first heard of the storm via a phone call. It soon became hard to reach anyone because of the loss of power in this area.

Using the Facebook app on my cell phone I did learn the storm was moving rapidly toward us. When people I knew in Northern Virginia started commenting about it, I knew we were in trouble.

Three hours after it hit the Marietta/Parkersburg area it roared into the nation’s capital. By that time I was deep underground waiting on a Metro train. When the train finally arrived and stopped, water poured off the front of it like a waterfall.

By the time we emerged from the station a few miles away, the front edge of the storm had moved through. It would be morning before we saw the true force of it. Trees on buildings and high-end cars lined the way out of town, half the lights were out and there was debris everywhere.

I made the colossal error of not getting gas before I left the city and spent nearly two hours on the outskirts looking for a station with electricity. Finding food was equally difficult. We stocked up at a generator-powered grocery store in Cumberland since we already knew most places in the Mid-Ohio Valley would be closed. We unsuccessfully tried to find gas a second time.

Like most people in the area we arrived home to a mess. Trees down, lost shingles, a broken grill and more. Barns on either side of us lost part of their roofs, no one had electricity, and everyone was hot.

Communication was limited to cell phones and direct verbal communication — also known as talking to your neighbor. We have great neighbors who checked to make sure everyone was OK. Dave Bosner even showed up with a generator powered by a John Deer tractor to help give our refrigerator some juice — Thanks Dave. I was even able to plug in about a half a dozen other devices to help get them charged up.

Power at The Marietta Times was restored over the weekend. At the Parkersburg News and Sentinel the power did not return until Monday afternoon.

The 96-foot press requires a lot of energy to run, more than any conventional generator could produce. We could get part of the newspapers done here, but we had to go elsewhere to actually print them. A lot of newspapers were in the same position, with presses throughout the region set motionless because of a lack of electricity.

We turned to our sister newspapers in Steubenville, Martins Ferry and Wheeling for help. They not only provided presses to print the newspapers but also the workplaces need to produce them. It was another great example of neighbors helping each other.

Power is now back on at my house and at both newspapers. The mess is cleaned up in my yard, and newspapers are starting to return to normal. The Internet is up, the websites are up-to-date, the multitudes of devices are charged and the car has a full tank of gas.

Many people in our area are not as lucky. Checking on friends and family means a lot to them, remember some people are too proud to ask for help. A simple bag of ice might be just what the person needs. Remember, in a lot of instances phones are not going work, so just stopping by might be your best bet.

The past few days have been tough on everyone, don’t make it worse by getting sick. If you think food might have gone bad, it probably has – when in doubt, throw it out.


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