The Baltimore Washington area learned a new word recently. Derecho: a fast moving severe thunderstorm with hurricane force winds. Ours hit like a category one, with little warning. Our lights flicked out at 10:30pm. For an intense and frightening half hour we huddle together with our flashlights watching the trees do backbends in the wind while listening to reports on my battery operated radio. There was no mention of tornados so we wandered off to bed expecting the power to come back on during the night. Wrong.

Not only was the power out, but our cell phones weren’t getting a signal. We were able to get a few calls out on our land line before it went out as well. The entire area was in the dark. A quest for coffee led me five miles away into the next county. It took over a half an hour to make my way through the line which snaked through the store.

At least the kids (teens) got to sleep in. With little else to do, we dug out our lanterns, made sure the grill had propane and listened for updates on the radio. Nearly a million people had no power and the damage to the power grid was worse than after Hurricane Irene. Oh, and a heat wave was hovering over the entire area.

Throughout the day the radio continued to report the outages and destruction. We listened closely as temperatures rose into the 100’s. Would they give out dry ice? Regular ice? Who had power? Air-conditioning? Sure, all we had to do was check a website for the list of locations. Say what? No power, no phone, no cell phone, no internet. Did we miss something? We listened for the next report and sure enough, we could find more info on-line.

Ok, maybe the newspaper would have more information on Sunday. The next day I checked every article in both the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. You guessed it. All we had to do to find a cooling center was go to a website. So why do I pay for a newspaper?

Is our society so reliant on instant internet that we’ve forgotten to use simple forms of communication? Not every American owns a smart phone. We were hot, tired, and found this lack of information extremely frustrating. Luckily our car had gas and a friend across town had power, saving most of our food and giving us a respite from the heat. Many others weren’t so fortunate.

Late Sunday I just happened to be listening to WTOP, the major radio news station in Washington, when a woman called in to complain about the lack of information. She also had no power, no internet and, no smart phone. Apparently no one, I mean NO ONE, in the entire radio studio considered that people didn’t have access to the internet during a power outage. Within the hour they began announcing the location of cooling centers. Sadly, the newspapers never did. I only hope that in future emergencies all our news sources consider those of us not permanently connected to electronics.

Advertisements