Sharpen your 7-irons and top off those margaritas, fellow D.C. thunderstorm survivors — all 2 million of you. (My condolences to the families of those who died). My experience over the past 48 hours tells me one thing: we are woefully unprepared for the apocalypse.
If we were being pursued by a pack of “Mad Max” marauders, my fuel-efficient Hyundai would get as far as the Beltway before needing some unleaded love. If we were forced to camp out in the bucolic hinterlands of Northern Virginia, we would have everything we needed — if we only needed a few Sam Adams Summer Ales and half a bottle of pinot grigio. If a zombie popped out of the bushes right now and wrapped his claws around my neck, my dog would tilt his head, curl into a ball and fall asleep.
Let’s rewind a bit. The wife and I were supposed to attend our first PGA Tour event Saturday, the AT&T National. We were prepared to brave 100+ degree temperatures and crane our necks to see Tiger, Lefty, Furyk and the rest at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. (for a few hours, at least). But instead of retelling stories of bogeys and obnoxious preppies, my mind is full of dread for the disorder I experienced and the mayhem to come when the shit really does hit the fan in my nation’s (your nation’s, too, admit it) capital city.
D.C. reminds me of Southern California because both areas tend to crumble into a blubbering mess at the slightest hint of inclement weather. A light dusting of snow triggers a mad dash to highway onramps, lest people get marooned in their offices — or worse yet, stuck on the roads — like many did during an insane afternoon rush hour snowstorm in 2011. Rain seems to be a local signal to commuters to speed up and tailgate. And forget about asking drivers to treat dead traffic signals like a four-way stop. When Time magazine ranked D.C. the eighth worst traffic for a major U.S. city, it was infamy well earned. If D.C. were a person, it would be Johnny Fontaine from “The Godfather,” crying to Vito Corleone after he failed to get a part in a big movie. Vito’s response can be found here:
There was nothing subtle about Friday night’s storm. I was flipping through TV channels when I noticed a severe thunderstorm warning being issued by the National Weather Service. Several minutes after rushing outside to bring the cushions of our patio furniture inside, wind and rain began to pummel the area. My delicate house was practically screaming for mercy. The lights flickered while I was brushing my teeth, then the house turned pitch black. No more lights, no more air conditioning. We were among 1 million residents in the area who had lost power.
It’s a steady ride on easy street when the power outage is expected to last a few hours, maybe even a half-day. But when it became apparent that much of the D.C. area would be without power for dayz-z-z during a record-setting heat wave — and with another storm possibly coming on Saturday night — mayhem ensued. The 911 system of neighboring Falls Church malfunctioned, and emergency dialers were redirected to a general number. Motorists clogged the roads — and our path on our way to Congressional early in the morning — as they rushed to the local supermarkets for ice and water. Neighbors cranked up their generators, lest they lose wireless access during a critical Saturday workday.
We didn’t find out until later that third round play at the AT&T National was closed to spectators and most volunteers, so we spent the remainder of the morning looking for breakfast (eventually family fed us — it’s in their contract) and meandering back to our neighborhood. Lines of people streamed out the doors of every McDonald’s and Starbucks we drove past. Gas stations were either closed or packed with fuel-hungry residents looking to keep their generators going.
Our house was heating up, the food in the freezer was warming and our fur-covered dog would not do well in a hot house, so we sought refuge at the wife’s office on Capitol Hill. Six chicken breasts, two pounds of ground turkey, a dozen fudge pops and the aforementioned beer and wine joined us. After all, why force ourselves to rough it in a hot house when we could have TV, Wi-Fi and air conditioning? Especially if the left jab given by Mother Nature on Friday night would be followed up with a finishing right cross on Saturday night that could put the region into a deeper hole.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. We got a few drops Saturday night, nothing more. Most of D.C. proper wasn’t affected by the storm, so we enjoyed a nice dinner at Molly Malone’s, across the street from the Marine Barracks at 8th and I. TV news showed drunks falling sideways down slip ‘n’ slides amid a sea of empty Solo cups and beer cans. Power won’t be restored for days, but for at least one night, we could relax a little.
Local TV weather guy Topper Shutt (that’s his name, really) warns of more hot days this week, possibly generating more crazy storms, maybe pushing us a little closer to the edge. Are we ready D.C?
As I sip my cold beer in a plush leather chair in a cool office, I can say with confidence that we’ll get around to it.