One year later: New residents were welcomed by derecho

PARKERSBURG – Tim and Nancy Penn in the summer of 2012 were looking forward settling into their new home on Market Street and beginning retirement.

Things were packed up and they would soon be on their way from Long Island, N.Y., to Parkersburg.

Unfortunately, the day was June 29, 2012, and a massive line of storms were moving across Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and other eastern states in what came to be known as the Derecho of 2012. The storms caused numerous, near total, power across the region and massive damages throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The Penns’ hopes of settling into their new home quickly evaporated in the heat of those summer days without air conditioning. The storms sent two large trees crashing onto their new home at 1800 Market St.

A tree went into the upper floor, knocking out bricks, damaging the roof and a couple of upstairs bedrooms before dropping on the family room, which was an addition to the main house. The other tree crashed through a wall that enclosed the yard and fell into a garage.

Three stained-glass windows from the former Chancellor Hotel at Seventh and Market streets escaped damage and remained intact.

Tim, who was born in Parkersburg and had family here, and Nancy first received the bad news about their house from relatives.

“The storm had hit Friday and we arrived here on Sunday,” Nancy said. “We got the call from family on Friday that the house was smashed. They told us the family room would have to be rebuilt.”

They knew what they were going to get into when they arrived.

“It was hot and we had no power,” Nancy said. “You either had to laugh or cry, so I just had to laugh at it. Everything happens for a reason.”

Luckily, family still had power so the Penns had a place to stay at night.

Tim remembers the impact the damage had on their neighbors.

“This lady came across the street, hugged me and started crying,” he said. “I asked ‘What’s wrong? She told me she had lived in our house for 17 years and raised her kids there. I said it is only brick and mortar. No one was hurt. It is just a bump in the road of life. That is all. As long as no one was hurt or injuried, that is all that counts.”

Even with massive damage to their house, the Penns were expecting the moving van with all of their things to arrive the Monday after the storm.

“I was in the backyard supervising all of these people tearing down walls and taking trees out,” Tim said. “My wife was inside taking the movers in.”

Due to the damage, they were putting a lot of their stuff in places wherever they could find room around their house, avoiding all of the damaged rooms. They had a lot of their furnature piled in the front room with other items throughout the house where there was room.

“We didn’t get the stuff in the right places and the right rooms until six or seven months later,” Tim said.

Insurance paid for all of the repairs to the house. A new family room was built.

“It took all summer,” Tim said. “It was a disaster here.”

They were able to do much of the work inside the house throughout the winter. They eventually painted the upstairs rooms.

The couple eventually had a patio installed, a Petanque pit and an herb garden. They added a gate to their backyard wall to allow easier access.

When the tree was on top of the family room the windows were all bowed, When the tree was removed, the glass shattered.

“We have been picking up glass for over a year and we still are,” Nancy said with a chuckle. “In the flowerbed we haven’t planted yet, you can just go out there and pick up glass everyday. It keeps coming to the surface.”

Their yard was a dirt pit up until June 10 when they finally had the sod laid.

“This is the next to final step to getting back to where we were on June 29, 2012,” Tim said. “The only thing I have to do now is go buy bushes to put around certain edges of the house. Everything else is complete. We have recovered nicely.”

Even after the storm, Tim had things that needed to be done in New York, so Nancy was in Parkersburg for around four months during the reconstruction before they could finally really get settled. She remembers the kindness of neighbors who offered access to a bathroom and a shower if needed. Another offered access to their internet connection so Nancy could keep up with things and have something to entertain herself.

“We have been able to meet our a lot of our neighbors and many of them have been really good,” she said. “We have sat out here (on their patio) in the evening and the neighbors have come over. They sit and have a drink with us. It is kind of nice. We like it here and we are enjoying retirement.”

The couple has no plans to go anywhere this summer. They are looking to get involved in different aspects of the community.

“We love West Virginia,” Nancy said. “Everyone talks to you and everyone looks you in the eye.

“We lived in New York and they don’t look you in the eye or make contact with you,” she said. “This is a nice change. The lifestyle is a little slower which is very welcome.”

When asked if everything was finally back to normal, Tim replied, “I think it is much better now.”