What Is a Derecho? Tales of a Power Outage


We were reading our books when the derecho (a word I’d never heard) hit. First, the sirens went off. “Is that a tornado?” Then the sky turned low and pitch-black.  Later, we heard that 100-MPH winds had ripped across the sky.

“What IS that?”  I asked, looking out the window.  On TV, the meteorologist assured us this storm with high winds was not a tornado. He seemed quite cheerful and fascinated by it.  Then his image flickered on the screen and the power went out.

Trees down (one blocked our street), branches down, wires down, some roofs blown off. Interstates closed, semi-trucks toppled by winds on the highway. On the second day of the power outage, 800,000 midwesterners were still without power.

Every time there is a  power outage, almost every comfort disappears.   How can we take things for granted, I mused, as I tried to read my book in inadequate light.

The radio newscaster said the power would be back by 1 p.m. We waited…waited…waited…. Nope.  Tea time (sun tea). Dinner hour (sandwiches thrown together in a dim kitchen). Sunset (sat in the back yard and laughingly outlined a movie script that was half Serpico, half Community) .

We hoped the power would return in the night.  No luck.  The next day we were still living like pioneers.  I have never enjoyed Little House on the Prairie, Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, or any other book about robust prairie-related survival.  I’m quite sure I would have flunked as a pioneer and hied it back to the city.

I actually felt mellower on the second day without power, beccause my expectations were lowered.  I rambled around the house in a long Miss Havisham-style sleeveless t-shirt nightgown made in China of some mysterious substance that is certainly not organic. Who can be picky when the fans don’t work?

Hurray, we got our power back this morning at 5:00. Oh. thank God! I’ve never been as courageous as Abbie in Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, though I love the book! And as for surviving without fans and AC…


2 thoughts on “What Is a Derecho? Tales of a Power Outage”

  1. I’m glad to read that your only problem from the storm was lack of electricity. The weather is getting more and more frightening all the time.

    1. Yes, this storm was incredibly dangerous. It swept across the midwest, and the winds had the force of a hurricane! I do not like climate change.

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