The temperature climbed all the way up to 102° this afternoon, and as afternoon turned to evening, a monster storm raced across Ohio and into West Virginia. I was at work when I saw the first signs of it — a huge red blob on the weather map moving in from Indiana. A lot of times these things fizzle out by the time they reach the Mountain State, so I figured this could just as easily be one of them.
I was wrong.
The sky turned dark gray around 7:00. A sharp wind blew in from the west. All the trees in the yard swayed like they were rope, leaves and pine needles hurtling through the air. I paced back and forth from the back of the house to the front watching the storm escalate. The house thudded as a large branch fell from the oak tree in the back yard and slammed into the deck.
In the front yard, the sky had turned a wicked sulfur yellow with dark clouds gliding and churning across. Then across the neighborhood I saw it... a tree falling, and all around it, a cloud of dust and leaves and twigs and debris spinning around.
I scooted everyone to the basement, even the cat, where we waited until the wind died down. I don't know if it was a tornado or not, but if it was, I was pretty sure the basement was a safer place to be if it decided to venture up the hill to my little abode. Lacking an underground storm shelter (or the need for one, most of the time), the basement seemed like the next best thing.
Once the storm passed and we emerged I looked around for damage. The power was out of course, and still is as I write this. Along the Elk River, the power drops if a squirrel farts. No broken windows, no wicked witches under the house. Branches strewn across the back yard, which is pretty typical after a storm here. Tomato cages standing, garden intact but a little beaten. So far so good.
With everything secure on the home front, time to check out the surrounding kingdoms. Definitely some trees down... some uprooted. Numerous large branches blocking roads and sidewalks. People milling about all over the neighborhood doing the same thing as me. The crisp smell of pine in the air, which I associate with the morning after Hurricane Fran swept through Durham in 1996. In the distance, the sound of sirens, people realizing this had been an actual emergency.
The news I've gleaned so far indicates this was a very severe storm, not just for Charleston, but all over the place. People are being urged to stay home and keep the roads clear, and it sounds like power is out across large areas. If it's anything like the big winter storm of 2009 it might be a few days. I'm sure the full extent will be easier to see in the morning. For now, everything is quiet, and if not for the sound of a generator a few houses down and the complete darkness in the neighborhood, you'd hardly know anything had happened at all.