The rumble began like a passing train and then many people realized they were nowhere near the tracks. Maybe a helicopter. But the shake continued long enough on Aug. 23 that most people left the shelter of their homes or road it out, securing dishes or other valuables that could tumble to the floor. Then they realized it was an earthquake.
Finding out later it was a 5.8 tremor that was a record for Virginia, which was centered some 38 miles away in Louisa.
But the minimal damage caused by the earthquake was quickly overshadowed by Hurricane Irene, which passed just east of here on Aug. 27, Irene left as much, if not more devastation than did Hurricane Isabel in September of 2003.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) heavy rain and 70 mph winds wrecked havoc on the Richmond area as the storm tracked north. A number of roads were blocked by trees for days, and downed power lines left some area residents (60,000 in the metro area) without power for a week or more. But even worse, trees fell on houses all over the area.
Cathy and Mike Richardson were sitting in recliner chairs on opposite sides in the living room of their log home, when a large tree fell directly between them. Seconds after it happened, Cathy jumped up frantically from her chair and screamed. Other than a few very minor injuries, the two were able to leave the room unharmed.
“We were otherwise unscathed. It’s an absolute miracle because the logs kept that tree from coming any further down,” Cathy said. “It was a seemingly healthy tree, but the log house is what really saved our lives.”
Mike, who has a self-proclaimed “love affair with trees,” said that love affair “is quickly dwindling.” He, too, agrees the houses’ sturdy, wooden structure is what truly saved their lives.
“If anything,” Mike said, “the lesson I’ve learned from all this is that we’re going to have to take down some trees.”
While damage to a number homes by fallen trees and the cleanup that ensued on property that had to be cleaned up, most everyone had to deal with the power outage.
“My power came back on at 7:40 p.m. on Saturday night,” wrote Pete Hypes in his column for the Village News. “[It was] exactly one week after Irene blew through. In the scheme of things, it was not that bad. Thankfully we had cool nights, instead of sweltering nights and days like we had a few short weeks ago. The cold showers were not great, but tolerable. My generator gave me a little trouble, and we lost everything in the refrigerator, but that was okay too.”
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to brief residents about the preparation, response and recovery efforts after Hurricane Irene, and heard from members of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Emily Ashley, emergency management coordinator for Chesterfield County, said they had planned for one category above the state recommended Category 2 storm.
“One of the important things we wanted to make sure of was that everyone was getting information, that we were pushing out as much information we possibly could,” Ashley said.
Ashley said there didn’t seem to be a need to keep shelters open because few used them.
The county waived residential disposal fees for storm debris removal, but the lines were long and tempers flared as residents got restless waiting to unload cut trees and branches. One violent outbreak forced county officials to post a sheriff’s deputy onsite to keep the peace.