CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year's Clay County 4-H Camp lasted one night longer than usual.
On June 29, as the final campfire program and awards presentation was about to begin, counselors and other adult leaders noticed storm clouds rapidly heading their way from the west. Soon after they moved the week's final program into the camp's basement dining hall, the overhead lights flickered, and then went out.
The derecho of 2012 had struck.
As the straight-line winds accompanying the storm bent flagpoles to the brink of snapping just outside the building, the campers built an imaginary campfire with flashlights and sang "obnoxiously loud, follow-after-me, clap-your-hands songs," recalled Michael Shamblin, Clay County's WVU Extension Service agent.
"Everyone once again was having the time of their life," Shamblin said. "I couldn't have been more relieved that our campers were bunkered in the basement, physically and emotionally safe, and oblivious to the severity of the storm. I was so pleased to be working with caring adults -- our camp counselors."
The storm ended, followed by the awards ceremony, and a number of parents who drove to the camp for the closing ceremony picked up their children and were able to navigate their way through storm debris on the camp's access road to the main highway and home.
But it was a different story for the 41 remaining campers who were relying on a bus to take them home. "The roads were a disaster," Shamblin recalled. "They were stuck."
In addition to no food, electricity or transportation, there was no dry bedding, since the campers' sleeping bags and blankets had been placed on porches to be picked up and were inadvertently exposed to heavy rains. The camp's 13 counselors huddled and came up with a plan to scrounge the needed bedding from various parts of the camp and house the 41 remaining campers in a boys' cabin and a girls' cabin.