"Freak storm" doesn't begin to describe what happened last Friday in this area. With little or no warning, the skies darkened, rain began to fall - and a fierce wind began ripping down tree branches and power lines, while tossing heavy objects such as pre-fabricated buildings through the air.
Now, several days later, nearly two million people in several states remain without electric power. At last count this morning, about 418,000 of them were in West Virginia and about 400,000 were in Ohio. Many are right here in the Ohio Valley.
For some, the lights - and the air conditioning -will not be back on until Sunday. A few people in our area may have to suffer longer.
Utility crews, including some brought in from states not hit by the storm and another one Sunday night, are working feverishly to repair power lines and other equipment. But they can move only so quickly.
Here in the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio, we are not unaccustomed to harsh - sometimes even deadly - weather. Thank heaven, there were no local reports of deaths or serious injuries from the weekend storms.
We also are used to helping our neighbors. Now would be a good time to do just that. Hitting as they did during a nasty stretch of hot weather, the storms have made many area residents uncomfortable. Some, especially older people and/or those suffering from illness, may be in real trouble as the hot spell persists.
If you are aware of anyone who may be suffering from more than discomfort and inconvenience because of the power outage, please check in on them. You can do it discreetly, if you choose - but at least do what you can to be certain they're all right.
In some places, people believe that is the job of emergency services personnel. But in areas of our states affected by the storms, those public servants, assisted by volunteers, are having a difficult time keeping up with the need for help.
That leaves it up to the rest of us to lend a helping hand to our neighbors, friends and co-workers.
Experience teaches us most people in the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio feel that way. So, again, please act on your natural concern and compassion - and lend that helping hand.