The Derecho, One Year Later: Your Stories

Survivor of deadly storm: "This morning, a year ago, I had no idea that by the evening my life as I knew it would change forever"

Saturday marks the first anniversary of the derecho, the violent line of storms that tore through the area June 29, 2012, killing at least 13 people, felling trees and leaving thousands without power during a triple-digit heat wave.

In the storm's wake, Pepco came under fire for lengthy power outages, as did Verizon after 911 service failed in Fairfax County.

Since then, Pepco says it's installed new poles, trimmed trees and improving both underground and overhead power lines. Verizon and emergency officials have worked to make improvements to the county's 911 system, including ensuring that battery backups and generators are working.

And a D.C. woman who was paralyzed after being crushed by a tree is learning to navigate a new life. "I wasn't being careless on my motorcycle," Carolina Alcalde told News4's Erika Gonzalez. "I was just going home."

Alcalde has spent the past year doing intense physical therapy and says she's looking forward to getting back to her work as an office manager.

"This morning, a year ago, I had no idea that by the evening my life as I knew it would change forever," she wrote on Facebook Saturday. "Delicia (my motorcycle) & I were crushed by a 50' tree, just blocks from home. Delicia and the tree were totaled and technically I should have been, too. I read medical reports about my injuries recently, and still can't fathom I am here today."

A derecho is a severe line of storms that can be as intense as a hurricane, but instead of moving in a rotation, the storm moves in a solid band. A derecho can have wind gusts to 60 mph and damage spreading as far as 250 miles.

The D.C. region gets a derecho, on average, once every four years -- but last year's was so intense that it was categorized as a once-in-30-years event.


NBC Washington asked readers to share their recollections of the sudden, shocking storm and its aftermath. Here's a selection of what you told us:

Katie Murphy:
"We lost power for six days -- luckily on the third day, we borrowed a generator and a portable air conditioner, placed the a/c in the living room and stayed/slept there. I was really worried for my three little dogs... but our back yard is shaded, so before we got the generator, we spent a lot of time on the shaded deck or went to my husband's office for several hours (obviously, they had power)."

Lynne Therrien:
"A huge tulip poplar fell on our home, crashing through the roof and damaging the master bath next to where we were sleeping. A neighbor's tree split and fell on our fence and deck, and damaging much of our backyard landscaping as well. We were blessed... not a scratch on us, our granddaughter or our family dog."

Shannon Kelly Keeler:
"Left our home in Vienna with no power with our two-day-old baby. Good times!"

Ira Miller:
"Montgomery Mall [turned] into an air conditioned refuge. With people hoarding electrical outlets wherever they could find them to charge all of their various devices."

Peter Laager:
"Wind was howling so loud and hard that our wall-sized windows were flexing in with each gust! When lightning started I took a sigh of relief as the wind had died!!!"

Kate Gregorash:
"Luckily I was leaving for the beach the next morning and had stayed at my mom's the night of the storm. Her power didn't go out, but mine was out for four or dive days. By the time I got back from vacation, everything was back to normal... just had to throw out everything in my freezer and some stuff from my fridge."

Dwayne Byrum:
"All was calm in Alexandria and I was on my way to pick up my husband from work when I noticed everything from the stoplights to parking lot lights started flickering. I also noticed Dominion Power vehicles posted in several places along my travel path on Route 1. I knew then this was going to really be bad. We arrived home just as the 'wall of havoc,' as we refer to it, hit our neighborhood. Within seconds transformers started blowing up all over our neighborhood and for as far as we could see there were greenish explosions everywhere.... It took both of us to open and hold on to the front storm door so we could get inside to safety. We were barely able to get the door closed before objects started hitting the door and the house.... When morning came we saw we were the lucky ones with little to no damage. All around us though looked like a war zone. Trees around us looked more like they had just exploded, the streets were trashed with power lines and debris, and the gazebo next door was a twisted pile of wreckage...."

Deb Kurfiss:

"Not a real issue. We had no power for four days and lost the food in the freezer that we could not cook/eat. We closed down the house, pulled out the hurricane preparedness buckets, and moved into the basement where temps never went above 72F. We have gas cooking and hot water heater so that was a non issue. We always have about 20 gallons of drinking water available and we filled to tubs to wash and flush toilets with. To recharge phones we used an AC inverter in vehicles and worth noting is we never let any of the three vehicles go below 1/2 tank so we had gas. For this year we purchased a 8k generator which is filled up with spare tank of gas, waiting...."

Deana Marie Wilson:

"....The St. Louis Church, across the street from me, had tents set up for the Clarksville Picnic.... They were left without power, tents in the middle of [Route] 108, thousands of chickens and ham to cook for their chicken and ham dinner. While they did not cancel it, the dinner did not go on (all food was donated to shelters/kitchens in Baltimore), and it ended early. Their silent auction and big money drawing did happen. In all those years, they NEVER cancelled it/ended it early. But the derecho did last year!!"

W. Blaine Pennington:
"It damaged our giant grandfather tree, then Sandy took it... sad, but it missed the house. Power out for quite a while both times, had to find shelter with relatives... lucky."

Ashley Windsor:
"I worked until everyone's lights were back on."


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