Remembering the derecho of 2012

When the skies darkened and the thunder rolled into the valley exactly one year ago, many area residents had no idea the force of the storm that was coming. The wind storm, known as a derecho, knocked out power for weeks in certain parts of the county, disrupted water service and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

A year later, area residents recall the days, weeks, or even months they spent resolving problems caused by the June 29 storm.

Montgomery Street resident Paul Rinard, 84, was sitting in the kitchen of his downstairs apartment during the storm when a tree fell through the second story of the home he rents.

“The city came and said ‘You can’t stay here tonight,’ and I said ‘I don’t know why not,'” recalled Rinard.

Rinard got a motel room the night of the derecho and would go on to spend nearly three months at his daughter’s Williamstown home before the apartment was repaired.

Rinard recalled the city bringing in a giant crane later the week of the storm to lift the tree off the house before they started dismantling it.

“The (people in the) house next door were afraid all the limbs would fall on it,” he said.

After the tree was gone, the entire second floor of the home was gutted and rebuilt.

When Rinard moved back into his first floor apartment, he still spent weeks cleaning up the dust left behind by the dry wall. He also spent a good deal of time fixing up the topper on his truck, which was punctured by a tree limb.

“I fixed it myself. Used a hammer to knock the dents out and patched it up,” he said.

Third Street resident Ken Morrison, 64, also experienced some damage to his vehicle.

“It was totaled. The limb came down and crushed the front end. It went through the front windshield all the way to the floor,” recalled Morrison of a huge sweet gum tree that he witnessed falling onto his company’s vehicle.

He and some friends sawed apart the tree and moved it and then the vehicle was “hauled off, never to be seen again,” he joked.

Morrison considers himself lucky. His truck was totaled on Friday and he had a new one by Monday.

“It was tough, but we’re pretty fortunate. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the (recent tornado victims) in Oklahoma,” he said.

Now if the Morrisons hear storms coming, they make sure the cars are gassed up, the batteries are stocked up and a battery operated radio is in the house, he said.

Power outages were another long lasting effect of the storm, not only for the people without electricity, but for area power companies who continued fixing structures long after all the power had been restored.

In fact, the process of making power lines and poles safer is always an ongoing process, said Vikki Michalski, spokeswoman for AEP Ohio.

“Over the past couple years we have done and are continuing extensive work that reinforces our system,” she said.

Many of the electric poles that were damaged during the derecho were wooden poles, all of which have been replaced by stronger steel structures, said Michalski.

One of the things the company is working on improving is its communication process with customers, she said.

The company has for years utilized a storm mode communication process to send a unified warning message throughout the company. Now they are expanding the process to send the same warning to customers. Customers can provide an email address for alerts through AEP’s website, she said.

In West Virginia, the Monongahela Power Co. spent around $110 million in storm reparations.

“It was among the worst storms in Mon Power and Potomac Edison history,” said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for Mon Power and First Energy.

The company repaired or replaced 1,500 utility poles, 1,800 crossarms, 135 miles of wire and 1,026 transformers, said Meyers.

At Malone Renovations Inc., work on storm damaged homes continued well into the fall, said owner Keith Malone.

“We saw houses with the metal roof pretty much completely torn off. We saw a lot of siding damage,” he said.

In fact, the storm created more work than the company could accept, he recalled.

A year later, some people are still addressing more minor problems caused by the storm, said Greg Black, owner of Black’s Tree Service.

“We’re actually still doing work pruning and fixing tops that fell out. Yesterday I just fixed one of my trees in my own yard,” he said.

Most of the current work involves minor issues that did not pose an immediate danger.

“More so than anything, people are aware now of what storms can do and a lot more people are getting their trees inspected and seeing if their trees are ready for the next storm,” said Black.