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July 3, 2012
Wetzel Chronicle

On Friday my sister Betsy and I decided to take my kids to the Marietta Aquatic Center for a day of fun in the sun. My daughter Joellen has been wanting to go there since the first slightly warm day of the year and we just hadn't found the right time yet to make the easy trip to Marietta.

Well Friday the circumstances seemed just right. I already had my week's hours in at work and only needed to stop in to do one necessary task Friday morning. My sister was getting off work early. So as soon as that whistle blew, we were loaded up and headed south.

We had a great day swimming, going down slides, splashing in the spray, and of course floating in the lazy river (my favorite). It was a gorgeous day.

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On Friday we went from playing at the Marietta Aquatic Center, where driving through water is fun, to traveling home in the midst of the derecho that wreaked havoc on all of West Virginia with its strong winds.

At 5:45 p.m. the whistles blew for a safety break. It was also our cue to leave since I had an appointment in New Martinsville at 8 p.m. Besides, it was getting a bit cloudy. So we packed our stuff, changed our clothes, and headed up the road. I'm not sure if we had travelled six blocks, right when we were in the heart of the Front Street shops, when I looked in my rearview mirror and said, "Oh my goodness, look at what's behind us!" It was a very ominous sky blanketed with black clouds.

Usually after a day at the water park we drive through the Dairy Queen for a treat. We were about to do just that when the winds really hit. "I don't think we should even take the time to drive through for ice cream," I said. My sister agreed, so we lapped the building which included a view of falling trees in the adjacent golf course. As my vehicle was being rocked by the gusts, we couldn't wait for that traffic light to turn green and allow us onto Ohio 7 north, releasing us from Marietta and hopefully to travel out of the storm's path while heading toward home.

We never did get out of that storm's path.

Betsy and I just kept saying, "I have never seen a storm like this before!" We had to drive around some fallen trees and wires. Some rain fell, but not much, and of course the winds were very strong. When we got to Newport we made the decision to cross over to West Virginia for the remainder of our journey, thinking we were more familiar with the towns and other opportunities for help if the need would arise.

Just north of St. Marys we were stopped for, presumably, a tree across the road-one of those big old ones near the golf course. Deciding not to wait for it to be cleared, mostly because we were parked on state Route 2 between more of those giant trees, we went back to the bridge, crossed, and took the Ohio route.

We made it home and went to the place of my appointment, only to find there was no electricity-the meeting was obviously cancelled. Being a reporter, I drove us around New Martinsville a bit to survey the damage and take some photos.

The result of what I would later find was a derecho was astonishing. The worst damage we saw on our trip was in New Martinsville. After seeing Magnolia High School's press box off of the football bleachers and on the track, we were nearly speechless. We realized just what we, and everyone else in the area, had been through relatively unscathed. Sure there was damage and we all know now that our modern lives were certainly interrupted with a lack of electricity and, for some, running water, but as a whole, we were very fortunate.

"God was definitely looking out for us on that trip. I was certainly praying and I know mommy was too," Betsy told Joellen.

My five-year-old said, "I didn't say it out loud, but I was saying my Little Lambs prayer too!" (Thank you Diane Kinnard!)

Tears were definitely welling up in our eyes over that.

I know this weekend certainly didn't go as many people had planned. Our lives were very interrupted and there was certainly property loss, but I don't know of any loss of life or even serious injuries because of Friday's storm. We are all certainly blessed!



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