Hurricane Irene Knocks the Lights Out of Richmond

     A rainy Saturday spent playing cards, watching movies and just relaxing was what most VCU students and Richmond residents expected from Hurricane Irene. While many VCU students living in the dorms were merely inconvenienced by the lack of bread or frozen pizzas on the shelves at Kroger, or the fact that Domino’s Pizza stopped taking orders before 7 p.m., Irene unleashed her wrath on other parts of the Richmond community.



     By late Saturday night, power was out across Richmond, and the trees succumbed to the saturated ground and high winds.  Pieces of the trees from Monroe Park lay scattered across the walkways, as many of the trees were uprooted or splintered by Irene’s fury.

     Erin Carr, the assistant to the director of student services for the Honors College, was prepared for the storm but was surprised to see more damage than she had anticipated. 

     “It was just bizarre because living in Richmond we’re used to kind of mild snow and the occasional tropical rain storm, but not used to anything in extreme,” Carr said.

     Similarly, after last Wednesday’s earthquake, Tameka Bond, founder of Dyamond’s Ministries, explained that she and her family prepared for the hurricane by buying canned foods, water and batteries.  John Wiley, a junior at Va. Union University and Chesapeake resident, said that he was expecting the storm to be much more severe than it was even though a fence in his yard was knocked over by the wind.

     “We were really lucky that they (the trees) actually fell into a larger tree and not completely on the house. What happened with us was a large limb actually broke off and went through a window into our laundry room. Another one basically impaled the roof, so in my bedroom, I have about 2 ½ feet of limb actually sticking through my ceiling,” said Carr.

     Carr and her roommates fled to her brother’s apartment in Carytown after the trees fell. About an hour after arriving at her brother’s apartment, Carr said that his power also went out.

      “We are still without electricity. We went out yesterday looking for ice. A lot of places were closed and the places that were open were super packed and they were running out of a lot of items,” said Brooks.

     Victoria Napky, a student new to the Richmond area, explained that she came to Richmond thinking there wouldn’t be any natural disasters, but was then unexpectedly hit by two in the same week.  Although she was unaffected by Irene, many of her friends are feeling the lasting impact.
 “I had a bunch of refugees come to my house because apparently all south of Idlewood lost power,” said Napky.

     Napky said that she is still housing one of her “refugees” because his pipes burst during the storm. Carr went back to her home and moved her bed into the living room temporarily, until the tree is removed.

     “The landlord and the neighbors have been trying to coordinate with the tree people but they’re all so busy, so I really have no idea how long (it will be before the tree is removed),” said Carr.

     Throughout Sunday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Dominion Power worked to restore power to the area. Many traffic lights were still dark Monday night. Police officers directed traffic for much of the afternoon on Sunday, but today those busy intersections in Richmond became four way stops. Car horns punctuated rush hour as frustrated drivers tackled the inconvenience of no stop lights in many areas in the days following Hurricane Irene.

    According to a press release from Dominion Power, “Power has been restored to more than 50 percent of 1.2 million customers affected by the hurricane.” Dominion also expects to have 90-95 percent of power restored to customers by Friday.

     The number of power outages in downtown Richmond, according to WTVR’s “Tropics Update” can be contributed to winds upward of 63 mph. Those gusts are responsible for the number of uprooted trees in the area.

     Although Dominion and VDOT are working to restore power to the area, VCU is acting to accommodate faculty, staff and students by providing free access to the gym showers on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. The VCU community was notified last night via the campus alert system.

     Even though Richmond and surrounding areas were not completely prepared for back to back natural disasters Wiley said, “I’ve got stories to tell my kids.”

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