The story opens with David Drayton (Thomas Jane), a graphic artist, in his studio, working on an art project - a movie poster. A thunderstorm rumbles, building momentum. As he paints, the lights suddenly go out.
David, his wife Stephanie (Kelly Collins Lintz), and their eight-year-old son, Billy (Nathan Gamble) watch the violent thunderstorm from the picture window. Moments later, they head down to the basement with pillows, blankets, and a flashlight. We cut back to the studio. Suddenly a huge tree crashes through the window, destroying interior items including his current art project. The next morning they survey the damage. David steps out holding his destroyed painting. Billy sees the large uprooted tree . . .
Seeing that his painting cannot be salvaged, he pitches it in disgust . . .
David: I'll call the studio when the phones get back up, see if they can extend my deadline.
Stephanie: What choice do they have?
David: You kiddin'? They could whip up some bad Photoshop poster in an afternoon. They do it all the time, two big heads.
Billy [running towards his parents]: Mom! Dad! You gotta come see!
Stephanie: Hey Billy, take it easy, alright? I really don't want you running all over the place.
Billy: You gotta come look at... the boathouse smashed. Holy crap!
Billy: Sorry mom, but you just gotta... come on, come on... whoa!
David: Whoa. . . Having spoken, the doomsayer departs.
Stephanie [laughs]: How do you two always manage to make me laugh?
David: You have incredibly low standards.
Stephanie: Norton's tree.
As David moans about the old dead tree that he tried to convince his neighbor to cut down years ago, Stephanie notices a wall of mist gliding over the lake. They speculate how a mist could be over the lake and eventually dismiss it. David heads over to his neighbor to get his insurance info. But they are not on the best of terms having dealt with a property dispute between the two before.
The neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), is throwing a pitch fit trying to get a chainsaw started . . .
Brent: Motherfucker! Aw, shit! Motherfucker! Cocksucker!
They exchange a somewhat unfriendly, but not hostile conversation about the damage done, including Brent's car. David drives to the local grocery store to buy supplies, bringing Billy and Brent along. On the way, they see a convoy of military trucks, and they are in a hurry.
David: Guys from the base.
Brent: From up the mountain?
Brent: The arrowhead project? Well, you're a local - any idea what they do up there?
David: Missile defense research, you know, I'm sure you've heard the stories.
Brent: I'm sure the woman at the laundry mat says that they have a crashed flying saucer up there with frozen alien bodies.
David: Right, Ms. Edna. Yeah. Ms. Tabloid! "I had Bigfoot's baby". "Satan's face appears in oil well fire". You know, real reliable stuff.
When they arrive at the store, they find it crowded with people who are also recovering from the storm. While Brent and Billy go into the store, David tries his cellphone, but no signal. He then tries a payphone and it's also dead.
David enters the store, Sally (Alexa Davalos), a young and quite pretty grocery clerk, greets him. Due to the storm, the registers and other services of the store are down. They are using generators for the refrigeration units. Reports are seen that it was the largest electric storm on record for Castle Rock. David moves over to talk to Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones), who's sacking groceries. Ollie is a short, stocky, middle-aged man, a bit of a nerd look to him. In steps Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a religious fanatic, Ollie greets her.
Ollie: Morning, Mrs. Carmody.
Carmody [referring to the crowd]: With lines like these, I don't know how good it is. But I guess we'll have to make do.
Three young soldiers wander in, Sally notices one of them, Private Jessup (Samuel Witwer). She gives him a faint smile, he returns the smile as he walks by. Jessup greets Irene Reppler (Frances Sternhagen), and elderly woman and teacher, who is among the shoppers. She starts up a conversation with David, sharing their stories of storm damage.
Irene: We had damage at the school, wouldn't you know. That's what we get for not fixing that roof when we should've. But with funds being cut every year... You'd think educating children would be more of a priority in this country. But you'd be wrong. Government's got better things to spend our money on. Like corporate handouts, and building bombs.
Then a military police officer (Amin Joseph) pulls up and enters the store. David notices the MP head directly to the soldiers.