Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Jemon Haskins
Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg's 911 dispatch center Tuesday released audio recordings from the night of the storm. The sound gives first-hand accounts of the damage people witnessed. In their voices, the confusion and panic is clear.
The June windstorm was a wild night for dispatchers. In no time, damage popped up all over Lynchburg. And when some didn't know what was going on or who to turn to, they called 911.
"911, what's the address of the emergency?" said dispatcher.
"At the apartment or something," said caller.
"Ok, where at ma'am?" said dispatcher.
"Near Old Forest Road...trees are falling," said dispatcher.
When disaster strikes, dispatchers are at the heart of the storm. Lynchburg Emergency Communications Assistant Supervisor Jennifer Maul's been doing this work for nine years. But she says the derecho was a first. After seeing the radar, Maul had a feeling something was funny.
"The radios started to flicker in and out. I was like, 'This is not going to be good,'" said Maul.
On a typical Friday night, dispatchers take 200 to 300 calls during an eight hour shift. But the windstorm was a totally different beast.
"And on this night, in three hours, we took over 700 calls," said Maul.
"Right now, it's crazy. And there are things sparking everywhere. The power keeps like flickering on and off. And I watched a transformer blow right in front of the house," said one caller from Old Boonsboro Road in Lynchburg.
The phones were ringing so much, dispatchers rigged up an additional phone to keep up with demand.
"You just can't stop. You hang up with one caller and you are pressing the button for the next, while you are finishing up entering the call you have just talked to. You don't stop. It's a continuous cycle," said Maul.
Teamwork allowed dispatchers to get the job done.
"It's just kind of like a wave. We were just kind of in sync with each other. We did what we had to do and we got it done," said Maul.
Dispatchers say they had to prioritize calls during that night. Serious medical emergencies took precedence over downed trees and power lines. Remarkably, the 911 center never lost power.