Montgomery County is definitely not itself right now…

5 minute read

June 30, 2012, 5:06 PM

And that’s putting it lightly.  A very big storm blew through the DC area on Friday night, and the results were not pretty.  As I understand it, the weather event was called a derecho, and the effects of such a phenomenon were painfully obvious for those of us in Montgomery County.  Remember back in 2010, when that big storm came up out of nowhere and left much of Montgomery County without power?  It seems that history has repeated itself.  This storm blew through, and took out trees all over the place, and with that came power lines, and that left Montgomery County in the dark.  According to WUSA, out of 305,000 Pepco customers in Montgomery County, 210,000 of them currently don’t have electricity, and out of 800 traffic lights in the county, 500 of them don’t work on account of power outages.  And unfortunately, I am part of the two-thirds of Montgomery County that doesn’t have power.  I lost power on Friday night.  The lights went on and off a few times, and then went out for good.  And they’re still out.

And with so much of the county in the dark, people’s patterns changed.  First of all, getting around is a real pain.  With five out of eight traffic lights down (and no rhyme or reason about which lights are dead), we have been told all over to treat dark traffic signals like four-way stops, which slows things down.  From what I can tell, there are four ways that intersections with traffic lights are treated in these sorts of situations.  First are the lights that work.  Those function as they always do.  Then there are the really big intersections, which have police officers directing traffic through them.  Then the bigger intersections but that aren’t as big as the others get these little portable stop signs between the lanes to remind drivers that they are supposed to treat the intersection as a four-way stop.  And then finally, most intersections with dark lights are just left dark without any signage or personnel on scene, and drivers are expected to be courteous to each other and stop before proceeding.

Then as I was going down Georgia Avenue today, slowly due to the lack of working traffic lights, I noticed how many places were closed for lack of electricity.  For one thing, there were very few gas stations open.  And those gas stations that were working were pretty full.  The Sunoco at Glenmont Plaza had lines backed up almost all the way to Staples, for one thing.  This should illustrate the situation:

That is a Google Earth image of Glenmont Plaza, showing how the gas line went.  The gas station canopy is circled in yellow.  The red line follows how the traffic was lined up waiting to get gas.  The Staples is the white patch near the top center of the image.
Image: Google Earth

That is a Google Earth image of Glenmont Plaza, showing how the gas line went.  The gas station canopy is circled in yellow.  The red line follows how the traffic was lined up waiting to get gas.  The Staples is the white patch near the top center of the image.

My main goal was to go to Wheaton Plaza today to get something to eat, because with the electricity out, I have some problems.  First, I have no way to prepare food, because it’s far too hot out right now to use the oven.  Plus, and more importantly, my refrigerator needs to stay closed at all times to preserve what cold still remains in it to prevent food spoilage.  I have a lot of stuff in the fridge, and I do not want to see it spoil (and thus Pepco needs to get on it and restore power to my apartment as soon as possible).  So the mall it was, because the mall was most likely to have places to eat that were open.  Not good food, mind you, but food, and I had not eaten since around 8:30 PM the night before (and it was by then around 1:30 PM).  The mall was open and fully operational, and really crowded.  After all, it was just about the only thing open in Wheaton on this Saturday with no electricity over much of the county.  And so the mall was doing really good business, as everyone had the same idea as me:

Food court at Wheaton Plaza, jammed with people

Yeah, everyone’s got to eat.  I ended up eating at the Thai place.  It was your typical shopping mall ethnic food.  Whoopty-doo.  But it was a meal, which I couldn’t do at home right now.  Of course, if not for the storm damage, I would have gone down to Reston and hung out with my friend Matthew, but we had to cancel.  We’ll have to do that another weekend.

Then the thing that struck me as amusing was what I saw at the mall.  Some people were there to shop, but a lot of people were there primarily to use the electricity.  Seriously, just to take hits off the electricity.  After all, with no power in most people’s homes, laptops and cell phones were going to run out of power.  I have four batteries for my cell phone, and I burned through two since the power went out, if that gives you any idea.  I also ran my laptop down a bit as well.  So people were using every available power outlet in the mall to charge their electronic devices.  This was a typical scene around the power outlets at Wheaton Plaza today:

Charging cell phones at the mall

Yep!  For every place there was an outlet, there were two chargers plugged into it.  Funny how it is with our electronic devices.

Meanwhile, I was ultimately on my way to the office on this trip.  The way I figure, if I can’t do anything at home, I might as well go to the office and get some work done, right?  Seems a perfect opportunity to catch up on stuff.  I’m told that my desk has a glass top on it, but it’s hard to remember if that’s really the case, because I haven’t seen it in some time.  Perhaps I can find it today.  But once I got out of Maryland and into DC, normalcy returned.  The traffic lights were working, and the electricity was on.  And I got gas in DC.  I paid an extra 15 cents per gallon, but I didn’t have to wait in a long line like the one at Glenmont Plaza.

And then finally, even with the power outage, Falcon is still launching on schedule.  This would be the first time I’ve launched a new version of the site away from my real computer, but the power outage necessitates making such a move.  It’s not perfect, but that’s what you’ve got to do sometimes, I suppose.

Web site: D.C. storm 2012: Power out for thousands, nine killed in region

Song: Party Rock

Quote: By the way, on an unrelated note: Turns out that I was wrong about the final location of the Fire Dog Monument statue. The final location of the National Fire Dog Memorial will be outside Fire Station 3 in DC, where it will be on indefinite loan. My office building was the final stop of a big tour before going for final installation. Perhaps I'll get a few photos of it in place. We'll see.