COLLEGE PARK (UMPD) & LAUREL, MARYLAND (HOME)
Being diagnosed with lupus is one thing, but living with the disease is a whole other situation. I can’t remember the exact time, but it might have been summertime of 2013, however, the one thing that I do remember is that it was definitely summer. Living in the Mid-Atlantic region you are used to dealing with certain weather forecast and cultures, but even with some of the native locals they still complain every chance they get. With this summer in particular, I couldn’t really blame anyone complaining since it was the hottest summer on record, or at least one of the hottest. Unfortunately, this incident took place while I was at work on patrol and I don’t think anyone expected this swift storm, called a “Deracho”, to come through the area and cause mass problems in such a short time. I remember being at work, this particular night I was on the evening shift I believe, and just doing my normal patrols around the city and campus, when suddenly it seemed like we were reliving the scene of the tornado swooping through Kansas in the Wizard of Oz.
A very strong wind started to come through the area, causing light poles and power lines to sway very noticeably. Then the rain started to come down very heavy and hard where your windshield wipers, even on the highest setting, wasn’t making visibility good enough to drive comfortably. Suddenly, I started to see objects, which were not heavy enough and not secured to a solid structure, fly through the air, such as construction cones and trash. In driver through this harsh mess of a storm, I made the decision to find a parking lot on campus and just stay there until it passed. Some of us drove around the area with our emergency lights on so we would be visible until we all got to a safe place, which I think was broadcasted over the radio for us to do so. As I sit stationary in one parking lot, near the Children Youth Center, one of the construction cones hit the passenger side of the cruiser and continued across the windshield through the parking lot. In complete amazement, I continued to sit there watching the storm all around me as I felt the cruiser shake and rock a little bit.
As suddenly as it started, the storm ended and everything was calm once again. However, it wouldn’t be without consequences that the storm left behind in such a short time. The quickest and strongest storm I ever been through, as far as I can remember at this point, caused numerous power outages throughout the D.C. area, including my apartment complex. Thankfully, my wife was home at the time when this storm happened, but while the storm was going on she was sound asleep in the bed. In other parts of the county, power lines and telephone poles were knocked down and strewed across roadways, along with trees, and it appeared, the thickest branches of those trees were causing horrible travel conditions. I can’t remember if any cars in the area right off hand were heavily damaged, but if none were, then that was truly a blessing. Normal patrols, I believe, were suspended as we had to drive around the city and campus assessing damages and what areas need our attention immediately.
With the damages that was done during this Derecho, most people were out of power for at least three days to a week, or maybe even longer. Our apartment complex was out of power for at least a week, and that sucked royally for so many reasons. Thank God we didn’t have any family pets with us because it would’ve been a lot worse. During the week of no power, the temperature in the apartment reached over 100 degrees, and every window in our apartment was opened as wide as it could be, but with no wind blowing around for that entire week, which seemed impossible, didn’t help at all. My wife’s lupus anti-bodies began to work overtime, and each passing day and night her condition was getting worse and worse. Her lupus made her body swell, joints extremely sensitive to the touch and constantly sweating with no break it seemed. You would think at night the temperature would be low enough to make it feel cool, but even at night the humidity was high and the temps sitting somewhere in the mid to high 80’s; sometimes in the low 90’s. However, the outside temperature didn’t matter because the sauna inside our apartment was literally killing my wife with her lupus just breading through her body like never before.
It was during this week also that the Marriott Hotel on campus was offering all the university employees, especially the police officers, a break in the daily rate to stay at the hotel for at least one to two days. Watching my wife over on the other couch suffering in this God awful situation, day in and day out, prompted me to check on that deal or we would end up in the hospital if she has to suffer through this one more day. On a Saturday night while at work, I went to the Marriott and spoke to one of the employees there, who told me that at least 75 people are checking out the next day and that he will hold a hotel room for us to have. I was so thankful for his generosity and for the Marriott allowing us to stay there for a night or two to regulate our body temperatures once again. The news excited me that when I told my wife about it, she explained to me that she can make it one more night, but after that the hospital would be our friend once again. Being in a position at first where I couldn’t think of anything to help her ease the pain and suffering, I felt much better knowing that for the entire day Sunday we would be in great shape.
The only positive glimpse we had during the week of no power, is while the power company was working on the busted up transformers and severed power lines, everything came on for at least ten seconds, but then it went out once more until that Sunday night/Monday morning. I was definitely happy to be in a cool and comfortable hotel room after suffering for nearly six days in the intense hot and humid apartment, but I was extremely happy to know that we avoided my wife visiting the hospital, which were apparently working at near max capacity. Our overnight rate at the Marriott turned out to be only $35, which was a tremendous break from the normal rate at that time of $350-$400!!! I got the employee discount rate, and was in good standing with employees there; however, shortly after that or before that Hell Week, our free dinners at the Marriott were stopped suddenly. Most of us have suspicions on why that is and can probably point fingers at certain people for jacking that privilege up!! My wife and I lived through that week without getting pissed off at each other and without arguing. At that point in our lives, and through that situation, being good towards each other was our most important goal, and it worked.
We were not going to spend our week, or days, in the hospital once more because the lupus disease decided to kick in high gear! Everyone who lived through it lost tons of money in generator gas and the supplies of food in the refrigerators. When you buy bags and bags of ice, which we had a very hard time finding some, seriously, and you pour them in the bathtub to keep food fresh and cold and the ice melts within a matter of a couple of hours, sometimes minutes, you know that inside your dwelling the temperatures are just brutal. I hope to never experience anything like that ever again in my life, but if it does happen again in our lifetime, my wife and I will be much better prepared; we hope lol!! After that week passed, some homes and businesses still had no power, but majority of the area was able to go on with their lives and look back into history to remember where they were when this quick, but devastating storm struck. I don’t want this to sound like it was hurricane force winds and trees and telephone poles coming out of the ground, which some did, but it was bad enough to cause millions of dollars in damages throughout the area.
Once again this storm exposed the vulnerability of our infrastructure in this country, and that things need to be replaced, repaired and rebuilt as soon as possible. This storm also, once again, sparked up the debate that power lines and telephone lines throughout the D.C. area should be placed underground and out of harm’s way. Knowing the area, this will take another twenty years, three more devastating storms and cost serious more millions of dollars in damages and hundreds of lives before they expedite the fixes. Time will tell!!