Saturday, June 30, 2012

Powerful storms leave parts of Shenandoah Valley without electricity - UPDATED - Derecho 2012

Weyers Cave (Photo by Sam Harris)

Mount Vernon area of Northern Virginia (photo by Susan Allen)

Weyers Cave (photo by Sam Harris)

Weyers Cave (photo by Sam Harris)

Some of the storm damage in western Augusta County and Staunton ...

A fireworks tent in Staunton ...

Damaged storage building at Lowe's in Staunton ...

The electricity at our house in western Augusta County went out shortly before 9:00 Friday night, and the sound of the wind wasn't far behind. Storms approaching the eastern part of the country after extremely high temperatures during the day had caused weather forecasters to put out extreme weather alerts.

The electricity Saturday morning remained out for three-quarters of a million Virginians including those in Staunton and parts of Augusta County. All retail businesses in Staunton were closed as folks searched for ice and coffee in the early morning hours.

We had limbs down in our yard but no major damage other than no electricity. Shenandoah Valley Electric Co-op said not to expect the power to be turned back on before Sunday and, with the forecast calling for another hot, muggy, day with temps near 100, many will be left uncomfortable.

The Augusta County Service Authority asked residents to conserve water.

Friday's high at my house was 102.9 and the overnight low was 56 degrees. Harrisonburg set a record high temperature of 104 on Friday.

As the sun rose this morning and in search for coffee and ice, we landed at the Fishersville McDonald's at the intersection of I-81 and Rt. 608 in eastern Augusta County. The place is booming this morning with others looking for breakfast. A group of Boy Scouts, loaded with rain-soaked gear, stopped to get something to eat before heading home. Other campers who had been in the area, packed and heading for home, stopped for a coffee fix.

In Northern Virginia, two people were reportedly killed last night at the height of the storm. No word yet as to how this affected the wildfire in Shenandoah National Park.

We'll be waiting for our power to come back on but, until then, we'll ice down the fridge items and do what we can do be comfortable. Stay cool out there!

UPDATE 1: Governor Bob McDonnell declared a State of Emergency due to the excessively high temperatures that are forecast just as thousands of Virginians have lost electricity after last night's damaging storms.

UPDATE 2: Augusta County Supervisor David Karaffa reported that due to power outages in half the county, Kate Collins Middle School is being set up as a shelter with air conditioning and cold water so people don't suffer heat stroke in their homes. Some Volunteer Fire Departments are also setting up shelters.

UPDATE 3: Staunton City Councilwoman Andrea Oakes passed along that Gypsy Hill Park is closed due to extensive damage, and also noted that Kate Collins Elementary School was open for those still without electricity in the SWAC area.

UPDATE 4: From Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen's Facebook page: "Our thoughts are with the many families whose homes and businesses are still without electricity after last nights devastating storms. And, we appreciate all the people working hard in this hot, humid weather trying to restore power as soon as possible. If you can, it would very helpful to check on your elderly neighbors."

UPDATE 5: Viewer-submitted storm damage footage from WHSV TV-3 out of Harrisonburg.

UPDATE 6: From my friend Mark Robbins with storm damage details from Albemarle County: "76 mile commute cville -AMC -Cville. Terrible storm damage -trees crops power. Worse was Garth west of Foxfield and 250 in Ivy. Cornfield near Millngton all bent down."

UPDATE 7: From over the mountain in Albemarle County, confirmation from police of two storm-related fatalities due to falling trees.

UPDATE 8: A list of cooling shelters has been provided by NBC-29.

UPDATE 9: Staunton Councilwoman Andrea Oakes just called to get the word out that Bessie Weller Elementary School in Staunton is opening as a cooling shelter for those without electricity.

UPDATE 10:  More extensive list of cooling shelters from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

UPDATE 11: Our electricity came back on around 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Many in Staunton, Fishersville, and other areas of Augusta County are still without and no word on how long it will be.

Multiple traffic lights are still out in Staunton and Waynesboro, and motorists were making their own way. We only saw one intersection in Staunton where traffic was directed by police. Many businesses are still without power. The food places and service stations that are open are swamped. Cars are lined up waiting for gas pumps and to get into parking lots of restaurants. Add to the local mix the tourist traffic traveling the interstates -- I-81 and I-64 -- and it is quite a backup.

Martin's Super Market in Staunton reopened and their internet cafe area was full of people charging cell phones, laptops, and using the internet service. Everyone was swapping stories about their storm adventures and which places they had found to be open or closed.

Political signs in the area took a beating so those will have to be replaced or repaired. Some have flown away with no clue of where they are.

I heard that Augusta Board of Supervisors Chairman Tracy Pyles had a tree fall across his front porch so hope there's not major damage for them. Update: Huge oak trees fell at Supervisor Pyles' house. One crushed the front porch and another crushed his jeep. Video here and here. Thankful prayers that no one was hurt....

The bad news about Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park having so much damage is the 4th of July festivities planned there this upcoming week including the parade on Wednesday.

In Waynesboro, Target, Kohl's, McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, McAlister's, and all the other stores in that shopping area were open for business.

We had multiple limbs broken out in trees around our house but, thankfully, nothing major and no damage to house or vehicles.  We're thankful for the family and friends who offered their homes for our use.

UPDATE 12: Friends who were still without electricity in Fishersville came over Saturday evening with dinner fixings that were going to spoil in their fridge, and shared the contents of their freezer that were also going to spoil. We grilled out but ate inside in the cool of our air conditioning. Before they and their children left to go home, expecting to sleep in a house without electricity and AC, their electricity was restored. Good times!

UPDATE 13: All of Skyline Drive has been reopened.

UPDATE 14: Dominion Power Director of Media Relations David Botkins has a video update about the progress of restoring power as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

UPDATE 15: The weather phenomenon that caused Friday night's storm damage is known as a derecho. AccuWeather has details of this little-known but powerful wind storm.

UPDATE 16: Dominion Virginia Power said Sunday afternoon it may be a week before power is restored to all customers.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 30, 2012

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Friday, June 29, 2012

Photos 3 ... Grayson: Rocking on the front porch

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Grayson County, Virginia
June 2012

George Allen Money Bomb

U.S. Senate candidate George Allen wants to be the vote to repeal ObamaCare. He's going up against the Obama Machine since his opponent is Obama's rubber stamp supporter Tim Kaine.

If you can help with any amount of money, there's an ALLEN MONEY BOMB going on. Please help by donating whatever you can afford.

George Allen for U.S. Senate

Photos 2 ... Grayson County: My cousin's flower garden

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Grayson County, Virginia
June 2012

Photos 1 ... Grayson County

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 2012

Voter: 'Now is not Cuccinelli's time'

As we work on the 2012 political elections, shadows of 2013 keep creeping in with the upcoming battle in the gubernatorial race between Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

I received an email from a Waynesboro resident with the following:
"Lynn, what is the role of Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia Governor race? I am confused.

"I know Bill Bolling well; he is an ardent Christian and he is also the best man for the job. Ken is a good man, but now is not his time -- can you explain what is going on?"
Food for thought....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Romney links to McDonnell's ObamaCare statement

Description: cid:image001.png@01CD5538.68163DB0

Boston, MA – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell made the following statement on the Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s healthcare law:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold President Obama’s disastrous healthcare law is detrimental to the Virginia economy, our nation's prospects for economic recovery and the free-market system. Governor Romney has committed to repeal and replace Obamacare on day one of his administration, and that is why this election is so critical. It’s going to be a clear choice between President Obama’s big government takeover, accompanied by skyrocketing costs and tax increases, and Governor Romney’s faith in free markets and consumer choice. With Governor Romney’s leadership, we can replace Obamacare with healthcare solutions that put patients and doctors, not bureaucrats, in charge of healthcare in America and without sacrificing American jobs in the process.”

VA Obama voters are partially responsible for today's SCOTUS decision

The Supreme Court of the United States upheld ObamaCare and many across the land are reacting.

Democrats are ecstatic ... they feel vindicated. Conservatives are stunned and feel betrayed by America's highest court.

Those in Virginia who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 are partially to blame for all of this, according to Lars Hagen at The Roanoke Slant:
Of interest here in Virginia is that the voters of Virginia voted for Obama and removed a Conservative Senator and replaced him with Jim Webb who became the 60th tie casting vote to enable and pass ObamaCare. Therefore, we in Virginia bear a major responsibility and ownership for ObamaCare.
How very true ... and how very sad.

ObamaCare decision: Reactions from around the Commonwealth

Reactions are coming in from around Virginia regarding the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care law.>

From Governor Bob McDonnell (R):
Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses, and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.

“Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.
From Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling:
"I am very disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare. It was my belief that the President and Congress overstepped their constitutional authority in requiring American citizens to purchase a product like health insurance, and I am disappointed that the Supreme Court reached a different conclusion. However, the court’s decision does not change the fact that Obamacare is bad policy. Obamacare is too costly and we cannot afford it. In addition, Obamacare increases the cost of doing business and makes it harder for American businesses to hire workers. Finally, Obamacare limits American’s health care choices and intrudes on the doctor-pati ent relationship.

"Now, it is up to the American people to stop Obamacare. We can do that in November by electing Mitt Romney President of the United States, electing George Allen to the United States Senate, and reelecting our Republican majority in the House of Representatives. President Romney and a Republican Congress will act to repeal Obamacare and replace it with more responsible, market based health care reforms."
Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen:
"While disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care law, I believe it reinforces what is truly at stake during this pivotal election. This November the American people have an opportunity to choose new leadership in Washington who will listen to their voices and repeal this costly, harmful government health care law.

"My opponent believes this health care law is a 'great achievement,' but I believe it's an infringement on individual liberty and free enterprise. As I have traveled throughout Virginia, I have heard from families, small business owners and seniors seriously concerned about the harmful impact of this health care law and how it is increasing costs, discouraging businesses from hiring, and trespassing on religious freedom.

"I want to be the deciding vote to repeal this health care law. Virginians and Americans would be better served by reforms that deliver on the promise of reducing costs, increasing access to quality care, and put people - not government - in control of their health care. We need health care reforms that provide Americans with affordable, portable, and personal market-based health care solutions including Health Savings Accounts. I also support allowing small businesses to join together across State lines in larger risk pools for lower insurance costs and more competition and greater choice. And the States should be allowed the flexibility to manage Medicaid more smartly and efficiently.

"Virginia has proven that historic reforms can be achieved if leaders are willing to work together. As Governor, I worked with a Democrat-controlled legislature to pass major reforms including welfare reform, abolition of parole and Standards of Learning - now Washington needs the leadership and political will to achieve real health care reform."

Photos: Mitt Romney campaigns in Salem, Virginia

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Salem on Tuesday and a huge crowd turned out to greet him. The Roanoke Times reported, "Virginia is considered a key battleground state in the race for the presidency this fall, and the Romney campaign hopes to boost turnout in the Republican-leaning districts in the state's western regions."

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th) and Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-9th).

Trixie Averill (center) - Western Field Coordinator, Bill Bolling for Governor Campaign. Thanks to Trixie for sharing her photos from the event.

Photos by Trixie Averill
Roanoke for Romney Rally
June 26, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vistas and valleys

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Grayson County, Virginia
June 25, 2012

The Crooked Road ... Virginia's Heritage Music Trail

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Grayson County, Virginia
June 25, 2012

Gov. McDonnell announces process for filling judicial vacancies

From Governor Bob McDonnell's office....

 RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell today announced the process for interested candidates to apply for judicial vacancies that currently exist on Virginia’s circuit courts. The General Assembly adjourned on May 15, 2012, without filling vacancies in the 6th, 10th and 29th Judicial Circuits. Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia gives the governor the authority to fill vacancies to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and Circuit Courts “which may exist while the General Assembly is not in session.”

“Selecting individuals to serve on the bench in Virginia is one of the most important functions for our Commonwealth,” said Governor McDonnell. “I will be seeking out the most qualified candidates for these positions, and I encourage all interested individuals to apply.”

Information on applying is available at The governor also encourages comment from individuals or interested bar associations or groups.

According to Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, any individuals appointed to these positions will “serve until thirty days after the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly.”

George Allen talks with Neil Cavuto on FOX News

Yesterday George Allen was on FOX News talking with Neil Cavuto about the failed economic policies coming out of Washington and his proven, positive solutions in his Blueprint for America's Comeback.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ahh ... the peace and quiet of Grayson

The peaceful quiet of southwestern Virginia can be seen in this photo from Grayson Highlands. I think I'll kick back with another glass of iced tea and soak in the sweet Virginia breeze. How's your summer going?  :)

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 26, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grayson is calling....

It's June in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and Grayson is calling. This beautiful land was home to my great-grandparents and grandparents, and continues to be home to many family members.

I'll be looking forward to seeing what flowers are blooming in my cousin's garden. 

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Grayson County, Virginia
June 2009

George Allen for U.S. Senate: "Virginia Voices" TV campaign

“I hear from many Virginians who are frustrated with what’s going on in Washington. I want to be there, fighting for the people, for the taxpayers, for the families, for the small business owners to make sure we have the right economic, tax, regulatory and energy policies to make sure America truly is that land of opportunity for all.”
 – George Allen

George Allen for U.S. Senate unveiled its "Virginia Voices " campaign this past week. The effort will continue to build on George and Susan Allen's events throughout Virginia where they are meeting with families and small businesses as they share their concerns and ideas for fixing Washington. 

"Virginia Voices" launched a multi-tiered campaign including a new website, along with Facebook and Twitter accounts. The campaign is also kicking off a targeted summer TV campaign - releasing its first two ads which will run throughout the Commonwealth as well as go on the website. 

The first two ads, "Dorothy" and "Betsy," are testimonials from people who know George Allen personally or have worked for him. They share their stories of him as they know him - as a father, husband and leader for Virginia. 

Ms. Dorothy Jaeckle is the Vice Chair of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, former parent appointee to the Advisory Board for Teacher Education and Licensure, a wife and mother of four. "As a mom with four children who graduated from Virginia public schools, I want to know that our leaders are committed to the classrooms in our community," said Dorothy Jaeckle. "George Allen as Governor showed that he cares about the life story of every child, establishing high standards for all students in order to empower them to learn. Thanks to George Allen making education a priority, my children have benefited from his vision that what gets measured, gets better." 

Ms. Betsy Beamer is the former Secretary of the Commonwealth under Governor George Allen, a wife and mother of two daughters. She remains a close friend and confidant, serving as a senior advisor on his Senate campaign. "I've known George and Susan for more than 20 years, watching their children grow and proudly serving in his administration," said Betsy Beamer. "The George Allen I know is the real deal - with a genuine love and commitment for his family and Virginia. I know George is running for Senate to preserve the opportunity of the American Dream for future generations, and there's no one better to stand up in Washington for our children and their future." 

To view the spots, log on to The two will be part of the overall campaign that will run on targeted statewide TV stations and cable networks throughout the summer.

"Thanks to George Allen making education a priority, my children have benefited from his vision that what gets measured, gets better." --Dorothy Jaeckle, Vice Chair of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, a wife and mother of four.

"I know George is running for Senate to preserve the opportunity of the American Dream for future generations, and there's no one better to stand up in Washington for our children and their future." --Betsy Beamer, former Secretary of the Commonwealth under Governor George Allen, a wife and mother of two daughters.

Add your voice to the dialogue. Become one of George Allen's "Virginia Voices."

RTD: GOP State Central wrong reversing to convention

The Richmond Times-Dispatch doesn't agree with the decision by the newly installed, more right-leaning Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee's reversal of the previous SCC's vote to have a 2013 primary:
The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia sent the wrong message when it voted to nominate its 2013 candidates for statewide office in a convention. It also changed the rules in the middle of the game. The party previously had opted for a primary. Gubernatorial candidates already were tailoring their strategies and tactics in the context of a primary. The shift suggests an ideological indifference to protocol and reflects poorly on the candidate deemed most likely to benefit from it. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and his supporters seemingly want to limit participation to the most active and most passionate. Parties ought to value their bases, but they also ought to welcome those who do not drink from partisan cups. The abandonment of the primary and the embrace of the convention reflect a stridency that by all rights should hurt factionalists at the polls.

Virginia Democrats likely will nominate a ticket headed by Terry McAuliffe (or Mark Warner). Their team will be led by a candidate few Virginians will consider threatening to the commonwealth. Republican efforts to depict the 2013 gubernatorial election as an end-times battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness will not work, and should not. Democrats will portray the Republican ticket as ideological extremists, regardless of the specific nominees. A GOP convention could play into their hands.
Meanwhile, conservative Virginia blogger Ken Falkenstein posted on Facebook his disappointment at the reversed vote causing the disenfranchisement of thousands of Commonwealth Republicans:
The decision by the Virginia Republican State Central Committee to reverse its prior decision to have a primary in 2013 and instead nominate our statewide candidate at a convention has left me and thousands of other Virginians disenfranchised. I cannot justify to my firm taking time off from work to attend a political convention, and I also cannot abandon my wife to take care of our 3 young boys (including one with severe special needs) by herself. So, since the State Central Committee decided that putting our nomination process in the hands of the Tea Party was more important than seeking the will of Republicans across the Commonwealth, I will have no say in that election. And when that convention blindly nominates the furthest right candidates regardless of their electability, the happiest man in Virginia will be Terry McAuliffe.
A letter to the editor in Sunday's Times-Dispatch titled, "The Republican Party is out of touch," confirmed what Falkenstein wrote. Letter-writer James McGuire wrote:
I was extremely disappointed to read that the Republican Party of Virginia decided to select its 2013 nominees for statewide office in a closed convention, rather than in an open primary. It was reportedly a 47 to 31 vote. I'd surely like to know who those 47 people are and why they think most Virginia Republicans shouldn't have a voice in selecting their nominee.
This Correspondent of the Day continued:
A convention cuts the party off from those of us for whom real life intrudes even on a convention Saturday. I almost missed the 2009 convention because I was deploying to Iraq with the Army. I likely would have missed the proposed 2010 convention due to reserve duty. Many other citizens have work or weddings or children's events or are in such difficult financial straits that they simply can't afford the money and time to travel back and forth to Richmond.
He closed by adding:
I challenge the regular, everyday majority of the Republican Party to pressure our so-called leaders until this shortsighted convention decision is changed.
Polls have shown that Ken Cuccinelli cannot win against any of the expected Democratic gubernatorial candidate but that Bill Bolling could win against all except Mark Warner.

Food for thought as Virginia Republicans tilt ever further right.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Obituary for Greg Balsley

STAUNTONGregory Statler Balsley, 49, husband of Dania Robinson-Balsley, of 327 N. Coalter St., died Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in North Carolina.

He was born April 26, 1963, in Staunton a son of Philip Elwood and Wilma (Kincaid) Balsley.

He was a graduate of Buffalo Gap High School and attended Mary Washington and Bridgewater College.

Mr. Balsley was employed as a real estate agent with Real Estate III/Better Homes and Gardens.

He was a member of Olivet Presbyterian Church.

In addition to his wife and parents, family members include three sons and a daughter-in-law, Brannon and Heather Balsley, Bryce and Tyler Balsley; a daughter, Krissi Balsley and her fiancĂ©, Justin Thomas; a brother, Mark Balsley of Swoope; a sister and brother-in-law, Leah and TJ Dickens of Phoenix, Md.; a sister-in-law, Pam Garten; paternal grandmother, Marjorie F. Balsley; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Larry W. “Buck” and Jane Robinson; two grandchildren, Ben and Austin; three nieces, Lela Garten Mae Dickens and Audrey Dickens; and two nephews, Caid and Bret Dickens.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Elwood Balsley; maternal grandparents, Lee and Myra Kincaid; and mother-in-law, Becky Robinson.

A funeral service will be conducted at 2 p.m. Monday, June 25, 2012, at Olivet Presbyterian Church by the Rev. Harry Johns Jr.

Burial will follow in Oak Lawn Mausoleum and Memory Gardens.

Active pallbearers will be Mark Wenger, Curtis Wimer, Kevin Washington, Chip Harvill, Bill Hanger, John David Eavers, Rob Harvill and Sid Harvill.

Honorary pallbearers will be Harold Reid, Don Reid, Jimmy Fortune, John Lee, Sidney Supple, Ernie Landes, Timmy Swortzel, Dale Greaver and friends attending the service.

The family will receive friends from 6 until 8 p.m. Sunday, June 24, 2012, in the Henry Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to Meals on Wheels of Staunton, PO Box 2354, Staunton, VA 24402 or to the Town of Nags Head Fire and Rescue, PO Box 99, Nags Head, NC 24959.

Condolences may be sent to the family at

Previous on SWAC Girl: Staunton resident Greg Balsley dies in drowning accident at Outer Banks

My backyard oasis

 More flowers to pot because, in my world, you can never have too many flowers.  :)  Impatiens are perfect under the trees in our shady backyard and on the porch.

 It's an oasis ... shady, tranquil, and a great place when friends come over to visit.

 Can you tell we love to entertain? It's almost like our outdoor dining room ... tables and seating for about 40 plus plenty of room for more. The 4th of July will be hopping at our house.

 Plants are potted and ready for the porch.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 23, 2012