Derecho Storm Four Years Later

uprooted tree



Four years ago this week, many of us woke up to no power, spotty cellphone service, 9-1-1 problems, downed trees and a host of other complications as the result of a derecho storm.

Overnight June 29, 2012, into the early morning hours of Saturday, June 30, Fairfax County and the National Capital Region learned first-hand what a derecho storm could do to our community.

Not only did the storm cause havoc when it hit, but many suffered through extreme heat without electricity for several days.

As we reflect on our experiences from that time, it reminds all of us that we need to be prepared at all times for any type of emergency or weather event.

Just last week, a similar type of derecho storm started in the Midwest, though it fizzled by the time it reached our area:

And on June 21, we were pounded by some heavy storms:


Why Do We Still Talk About the Derecho?

We continue to talk about the derecho storm four years later because it impacted many aspects of our emergency preparedness and response efforts. Unlike hurricanes or blizzards, there aren’t days to prepare for something like a derecho. We continue to conduct exercise drills so we’re better prepared:

  • This week, first responders will train for a civil disobedience scenario.
  • Over the weekend, our first responders participated in a major exercise at the Greensboro Metro Station in Tysons.
  • Last week, first responders participated in a drill focused on a major hurricane.
  • The prior week, an active shooter drill was conducted.

We are preparing for the next weather event or emergency.

What preparations have you made?


What You Can Do to Prepare

During widespread events such as the derecho, government alone can’t respond immediately to long power outages, downed trees, hurricanes or people stuck in transit, especially across a county that’s 400 square miles.

As we officially enter the summer season, which can bring extreme heat and severe thunderstorms, here’s a six-step plan of action to prepare for the next weather event:

  • 1.) Buy flashlights and extra batteries so you’re ready if you lose power. You may also want to consider purchasing a generator in case you lose electricity for extended periods. Do NOT plan to use candles as they pose a fire hazard. Do NOT use a generator inside your house.
  • 2.) Sign up for emergency alerts, including severe weather alerts, that can be delivered to you by email and text.
  • 3.) Become digitally prepared, including thinking about power supply for your smartphones, tips to conserve batteries and more.
  • 4.) Text-to-911 is now available in Fairfax County. Know how and when to use it.
  • 5.) Put together a plan. “Planning” may not seem important or perhaps you think it’s too hard to do. Start with the Ready NOVA Emergency Preparedness Planner, a free, online tool that makes it easy to put together an emergency plan for your family.
  • 6.) Have cash on hand; if power is lost for an extended period of time, then you can only use cash to purchase things like gas for your car.

“As we arrive at the fourth anniversary of the derecho, we all need to continue to focus on being prepared,” says Roy Shrout, acting coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management. “Preparedness does not stop with your home, but includes your workplace, school and when you are mobile.”

We remember the derecho, but look ahead to ensure we’re all doing our parts to prepare for next emergency in our community.

Broken pole in Great Falls; June 30, 2012.

Broken pole in Great Falls; June 30, 2012.

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