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FAMILY IS STRUGGLING AFTER TREE HITS HOME

STORM: POWER SLOWLY COMING BACK ACROSS REGION

BY KATIE THISDELL

Linda Williams says she and her family are thankful to be alive.

A white oak tree fell on top of their house on Eskimo Hill Road during Friday night’s severe thunderstorm, leaving it uninhabitable.

A stack of photos taken Saturday morning shows the blue home barely visible beneath the brush.

“When you saw the tree, it didn’t look that bad,” said daughter-in-law Jenny Williams.

But now, a black tarp covers the holes in the roof of the house. Debris litters the yard. Had the family been inside, they could have been crushed, said Linda Williams. And now that mold has started to grow on their rugs and furniture, they’re worried about what to do next.

Living paycheck-to-paycheck means they can’t afford a motel any longer.

“We’ll be sleeping in a tent in our field,” Linda Williams said. “It’s not like I can feed my children and pay for a motel for days.”

One man dropped off a cooler of ice for the family members who were trying to stay cool in the shade across the street from their home, near U.S. 1. They’re waiting to hear from an insurance adjuster to find out what may happen next.

“I don’t think anybody understands the severity,” Jenny Williams said.

Stafford and other localities remain under a local state of emergency after the powerful thunderstorms—known as a derecho—swept across the mid-Atlantic. About 15,200 homes and businesses in the region were still without power Monday evening.

Many local governments opened cooling centers offering air conditioning and cold water to those who need to escape the heat. While some had closed because of reduced need, Stafford will reopen its center today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Gayle Middle School. Showers will be available.

The Massad Branch YMCA will also offer use of showers from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Thursday. Bring a valid photo ID and any bathing essentials.

GENERATORS COOL HOMES

Throughout Stafford yesterday, families hoped to spot utility crews in their neighborhoods. Seeing an unfamiliar car drive past his home on Fairfax Circle in Ferry Farms subdivision, Joe Brown went outside to see if relief was on the way.

“No one, not a crew, nothing,” said Brown.

After the storm hit on Friday night, the elevator mechanic quickly grabbed a generator that he purchased after last fall’s Hurricane Irene and wired it up to his house to run air conditioning and lights.

“I wanted to do it the right way,” Brown said.

Trees fell on top of several power lines in Ferry Farms neighborhood, leaving nearly two dozen homes still without power Monday evening and residents with no guess for when it may return.

Because of heavy phone traffic to Dominion Virginia Power on Saturday, Donna Isgrig said it took time to report the outage.

She and husband Bob Kash have been refilling their generator with gas every five hours to power fans, lights and two refrigerators.

To cool down their bedroom, the couple place a fan in the window at night.

That “was nicer, but still, I prefer a little cooler than 77 degrees,” said Isgrig.

Added next-door neighbor Mark Haymes: “Thank God for generators.”

The already close-knit neighbors said they’ve been seeing quite a bit of each other since the storm hit.

“It’s kind of been a community picnic almost, from breakfast to cocktail hours,” Kash said.

Jess Catron on Hamlin Drive realized he was lucky to have a generator as well, purchased after Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003.

Power had returned to most of his Ridge Pointe neighborhood, but not his street. He was working from home Monday afternoon to gas up the generator and make sure his dog and cat weren’t overheated.

“Boy, it sure would be nice to have air conditioning,” Catron said. Power was restored to much of Hamlin by Monday night.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

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