“Where did this wind come from?!” I yelled to Josh as I struggled to keep our big Weber grill from blowing across the porch towards the stairs.
I hadn’t watched the news and didn’t know there was an extreme storm warning, so the wind took me by surprise. The wind recruited every loose thing in the street. Every leaf, small branch, dust speck, dirt particle, paper scrap, gravel piece, plastic food wrapper, smashed styrofoam coffee cup, plastic bag, and rubber ball assaulted us as we scrambled to get inside and pull the screen door closed before it got blown off its hinges.
The storm hit on the eve of a record-breaking heat wave. In my backyard in Washington DC, the temperature hit 104 with a heat index of 109, and the city set up emergency cooling centers for those without air conditioning.
As we watched from the windows, we had no idea the storm would go on to cause 22 deaths and leave almost 4 million in the mid-Atlantic region without power in the ongoing heatwave. At the time, our attention was captured by the wind blowing at 80 miles an hour down the street, and the trees surrounding our house.
Out the front windows, we watched the wall of rain advance down the block. In the streetlight, it looked like a film obscuring the houses up the street. It was quite literally raining sideways – parallel, not perpendicular, to the ground. The stately elms that lined the avenue bore the full assault of the wind. Branches whipped around brushing the windows behind which we watched. I considered going out to move the car, but cracking the door open and hearing the roaring wind, it was clear I should stay put inside.
In the morning, my phone buzzed. We had power, but many did not, and the temperature was already rising. A friend was looking for shelter for her neighbor who was without power with a newborn and 3-year old and 100+ degree temperatures predicted for the coming days…
… A month later, the region is still recovering, and we have to prepare ourselves for more similar events in the future. Maryland Governor O’Malley blamed global warming for prolonged power outages in Maryland warning that the state’s electricity grid can’t handle stronger storms caused by climate change.
According to climate scientists and a number of state officials, the events of the past two weeks are consistent with what Maryland faces as a result of climate change. “Fires, drought, more extreme weather events — this is what it looks like,” said Zoe Johnson, program manager for climate policy in the Office for a Sustainable Future with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The recent heat wave “shows us ways we’re vulnerable now.”
Erin Myers Madeira is a Forest Carbon Senior Advisor for The Nature Conservancy.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user H.L.I.T. (Derecho!).
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