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Another Stormy Summer?

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• Re-Watch Our Coverage of The 2012 Derecho •

Update: 5/01/2013 6:00 P.M.

It was a storm no one can forget: causing widespread damage and power outages lasting for weeks. The "Derecho" hit the Mid-Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic on June 29th, 2012, setting the tone for the rest of the summer's oppressive heat and lightning, the latter striking one person.

"It takes time to get things organized and the power company to get in and supplies to get in," recalls Ed Hupp, Emergency Services Director, Wood County. "It was the third day before we were starting to return to some normalcy. So be prepared for yourself for at least three full days."

This year, AccuWeather is out with its long-range forecast for the summer. It predicts what it calls "frequent storms" from the Great Lakes to the lower Mid-Atlantic states, a region which includes our area. It also predicts more-than-normal rainfall for the area.

What it doesn't say is how severe those storms will be.

We've told you for years that a weather radio is the best way to learn about approaching storms, and that's still a good idea. But, these days, that kind of information is also available on something nearly all of us carry with us all the time.

"Through the apps on your cellphones to get the weather warnings and alerts," says Jeff Lauer, Washington County's Emergency Management Director, "you can go to different places to get the alert radios for when you're sleeping. I think the access is out there."

For more on AccuWeather's summer weather outlook, check out the "Hot Button" on our home page.

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Update: 9/13/2012 6:30 P.M.

The mayor of North Hills says his residents stepped up even before the June 29th storm had passed, clearing blocked streets and looking after their neighbors in need.

"Residents had four out of five (streets) cleared even before it stopped raining," said Mayor William Summers, Jr.. "We had residents looking after people who had just had surgery, making sure they were OK. I was really proud of the response from our residents."

But county and city leaders agreed Thursday there's much to improve, particularly communications. Residents without power who could not see television broadcasts also could not pick up many area radio stations. Some were off the air for several days. But emergency officials hope they can get that vital information in the future.

"We want to do a better job of educating the public that, any time 911 lines are down," said Randy Lowe, 911 Director, Wood County, "any time you need communications as far as any type of emergency, whether it's isolated in one community or county wide, you can go to your fire department and get information."

Another commodity that was hard to get was fuel; even for some responders. It's hoped the legislative process can result in gas stations having access to emergency power generators.

"We might require every service station to have a plug-in for a portable generator," said David Nohe, Vienna Mayor and West Virginia State Senator. "And we'll make sure that, across the state, every plug is the same."

The worst memory of the storms was people who were without power for as long as two weeks. But even that eventually returned to normal.

"I knew things were getting better when someone told me, 'my power is back on, but my cable is still out'," noted Ed Hupp, Emergency Services Director, Wood County

Local leaders Thursday also noted that, in addition to no reports of deaths or injuries from the storm, there also were no known instances of vandalism or thefts.

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Directors of local emergency management agencies say communications with first responders went well during the night of the June 29th storm.

"Even with New Matamoras, who had no cell phone or phone service, we were still able to communicate with them through the radio system," said Jeff Lauer, EMA Director, Washington County. "So, those things went well."

But they also agree there was a problem getting word out to the public-not only the night of the storm, but in the days that followed. That's because power and cable was out...and because several stations knocked out by the storm, didn't return to the air for days.

"If we had a backup generator in every fire department-most people know where their fire departments are, and it would give them a place to go to get information," says Ed Hupp, EMA Director, Wood County. "We had communications with all the first responders. Our problem was getting communications out to the general public."

Backup power generators, something people likely didn't think about before the June "derecho", suddenly were in demand. And the city of Marietta would like to have its own central emergency command office, similar in nature to what Washington County has.

"Just like the EOC office they have over at the sheriff's department," says Joe Matthews, Mayor of Marietta. "Not that they don't do a great job, but we have our need in the city and they have their need. But we can work together on that, and the city is working on that right now."

But what this storm is-as the storms of the past have been-is a learning experience for both government and the general public.

"In the wake of this, I hope citizens learn from it as well as government," says Lauer, "that they can do better to prepare themselves as well."

City, county and outside agencies will meet next Tuesday morning, July 31st, at the Lookout Park Community Building in Marietta, to discuss the unique problems brought on by last month's "derecho".
FEMA officials will also be on hand, possibly with some news on what relief the communities can expect from the storm.


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