Derecho Takeaway: How to Prepare for Long Power Outages

A while back, we shared a suburban Washington, D.C., derecho story. The June 29th storm raced from northern Indiana to the southern Mid-Atlantic coast in just 12 hours, leaving a 700-mile trail of destruction and plunging an estimated five million people into darkness. Among them was Patrick Wingfield, who lives 20 miles outside Sistersville, West Virginia, a little piece of Americana on the Ohio. Patrick shared his experience.

Q: What happened when the storm hit?

Patrick: It was Friday evening about seven and hot. I was taking a turn cooking dinner. My wife was at the window remarking on how odd the clouds were. The wind started blowing stronger than any I have ever seen, and it got dark like the sun had set. Our power went out. But our Kohler generator had us up and running in 10 seconds.

Q: Is a derecho just a massive thunderstorm?

Patrick: It’s big, all right, but it’s mainly the wind—this one had little rain or thunder. It passed by within 45 minutes. I went outside and found a tree had fallen, and the branches lay across the driveway. Some slight damage to our greenhouse. That was it. The news on TV said the winds hopped, skipped and jumped randomly, splintering some trees and power poles while it left others. Wind gusts were over 90 mph in some spots! Anyway, with the hum of the Kohler in the background, we headed to bed.

Q: Why do you have a standby generator?

Patrick: The number one thing was that we were on well water. In an outage, the pump would need power. In a rural area like this with miles of power lines running through wooded areas, line repair is going to be slow. This outage was for 160+ hours! But our propane-fueled 12 kW Kohler powered the essentials — well pump, sump pump, lighting, refrigeration and television — for a week without a hiccup.

Anyway, the next morning it was good to know that the fridge and freezer were cold, and I could make coffee. We got a call from an elderly neighbor. She needed water and some help with her husband who was recovering from knee surgery. I took water over, and she already had a portable up and running but her well pump wasn’t on it.

The news said repairs would probably take days, so my wife headed for the local grocery store. They only had enough generator power for emergency lights and the registers, so they were giving away water, ice and frozen foods. The local mega-store was closed, but was giving out ice and water. Only one gas station was open on generator power. A very long line — good to not have a gas-powered portable! We felt guilty that night watching the big screen and eating ice cream while thousands were doing without.

Q: You seem to know something about storms and outages?

Patrick: I’m kind of a weather buff, and I’m a retired generator tech. Worked for a large county government in Maryland. There were five of us maintaining about 200 generators from a number of manufacturers, including Kohler. So I was very familiar with Kohler. Well-built, reliable, good support.

Question: What’s your post-derecho takeaway?

Patrick: Think ahead. Have a long-term plan. I saw a homemade sign on a main road: “16 days, no power, no water.” Don’t forget water. The neighbors showered at our place. Have gratitude for what you have and share with those who don’t.

Storm photo courtesy of Corey Wagehoft, under a Creative Commons license.

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11 Responses to “Derecho Takeaway: How to Prepare for Long Power Outages”

  1. Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry
    August 24, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I have Gas Generator Installed at my Residence its model number embosed and service manual states
    30RZG
    I tried to find the details on website for this model but failed.
    Please advise in this regard and how can i find spare part required for this model.

    • Danielle Hoff
      August 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Hi Muhammad, our service team would be happy to help but we’ll need some further information from you. Can you please email your generator’s serial number, your address, and your contact information to generator.feedback@kohler.com? We’ll connect you with a distributor in your area that can help you further.

      • Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry
        August 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

        Tried ti send details to your given email feedback@kohler.com but failed every time.
        Please find Serial no as required 220335308 MFR DATE:05/08
        Engine SPEC GM60227-GA1

      • Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry
        August 27, 2012 at 4:54 am #

        Thanks for response.I tried about 20 Times to send an email at your given address feedback@kohler.com but failed.Detais are forwarded to their HQ through their contact system.please find below the required information.
        Model: 30RZG NAT GAS V6 S.NO: 2203353
        SPEC:GM60227-GA1 MFG DT: 05/08
        SERVICE DUTY: Standby

        I need Distributor cup alongwith cables for Power plugs.
        Rgds

  2. Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry
    August 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    How tosend details to you so that you can forward to Kohler.I am failed to send.

  3. Danielle Hoff
    August 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Muhammad, I’m sorry about the inconvenience. It looks like you were missing the first part of the email address. The correct email address is generator.feedback@kohler.com rather than feedback@kohler.com. I did receive your generator’s information so I’ll pass that along to our service team. Please look for an email from them shortly!

    • Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry
      August 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Thanks.

  4. Max "Generator" Stanford
    August 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    This is a perfect example of why it pays to have a backup generator. My wife and I live in a suburban area but more than once we’ve counted ourselves lucky to have a generator that’s kept us comfortable when the grid goes down for whatever reason. It’s one of those things that someone is pretty much guaranteed to encounter at some point but too few prepare for it. The commercial lack of preparation mentioned obviously has even more potential for great monetary losses at best, not to mention food shortages, etc.

  5. Mildred Melendez
    November 16, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    It’s good that you have these service assistance! Though my dad already knows how to install our kholer. Backup generator is very important most specially when the weather is bad like what happend to hurricane sandy. It is just good to have generators but, you should also take pre cautions and read the manuals.

  6. Hey There Blog,
    Very interesting, I am a survivor of the Great Derecho of the 21st Century in Maryland and I wondered how common these storms are. I looked on a news archive site and the only systems I could find were a winter derecho, therefore overshadowed with term Blizzard, and then one in Texas a few years ago.
    Keep up the good work

    • Cindy Lee
      September 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Hey Mark, glad to hear that you made it out of there safe. It’s true that you don’t hear about derechos often.

      Here’s some interesting facts about derechos from the NOAA: .

      -Cindy

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