Sunday 9 October 2022

Unpacking the Hurricane

Hurricane Fiona was reclassified as a post-tropical cyclone by the time it hit Nova Scotia, but everyone here, including government agencies, is calling it a hurricane, and I will do the same for the sake of convenience. Sustained winds reached 165 km/hr in some places. The destruction was felt primarily in the northeastern counties and Cape Breton. I live in one of those northern counties, and there are still a significant number of people who have been warned not to expect their power to be restored until as late as next weekend -- three weeks in total without power. There were so many downed power lines and so many trees in, around, and tangled up with those lines that it has been a laborious process to get it all fixed. Our province's power crews have been helped by others from across Canada and northeastern New England (in the USA), and the military has also contributed manpower to move trees and do other tasks. I realize that this hurricane, like so many others, brought much worse conditions and results to countries further south. But for us, this was a record storm and a sobering reminder that this could be our new normal.

The roar of the wind at the peak of the hurricane was incredible. The wind was coming from the north, hitting the back of our house full on. It sounded like a locomotive was passing behind the house -- for four hours straight. Not long after it reached that pitch and volume, I heard a very loud tearing noise. It was the power line from our house to the street, pulling away from the house. There was no sleep for me until the wind decreased somewhat. I couldn't even bring myself to lie down. I sat in a chair to be ready -- for what, I don't know. I have no idea what I could have done if the wind had torn off the roof (it happened to other people) or caused some other kind of damage or imminent danger. At dawn I was able to see that my neighbour's tree had split down the middle, with one side bringing down both their lines and mine.

The smell throughout the house during the storm was of smashed leaves and torn branches. It was the most exotic, intoxicating, and eerie smell I have ever experienced. It felt like the storm was trying to come right in the house. I don't think I will ever forget that smell. The next day, the north sides of people's homes were littered with pulverized bits of leaves. They stuck to windows and siding and needed to be removed by brush or broom -- a laborious process but one I also found meditative and comforting. The day was sunny and warm -- typical of weather here following hurricanes or tropical storms -- and quiet except for the buzz of chain saws all over the neighbourhood.

Seven of the trees in my back yard came down fully or partially. That was the story all over our county. People started cleaning up the day after the storm, making piles of branches and trees and sawn-up tree trunks at the curb, awaiting town pickup. As the week went on, nighttime temperatures started dipping to zero. My brother came from three hours away, bringing us a generator and heater. The next day he drove here again with his chain saw which he used to fell and cut up six of those trees. Together, we carried or dragged almost everything to the curb, although he did most of it as I had to keep checking on my mother. We spent two days doing that.The following day my son came from two hours away to finish the job. Anything not at the curb when the town crew came by would have had to be removed by homeowners at considerable expense. I'm grateful for the help I received to avoid that expense.

I was told by those who saw it personally that whole sections of trees along the highway were either flattened or broken off partway up their trunks, all in the same direction, north to south; lines of trees along country lanes were toppled across the lanes, again from north to south; and crews had to use earth moving equipment to push downed trees away so the power company could get to downed poles.

The only damage to my house was a row of shingles that came off, the shattering of the mast for the electrical connection, some siding at the point of connection, and one downspout. I felt very lucky to have been spared worse damage. My mother's house was not affected at all except for a small insulator which broke free from the place where it had been bolted to her house (and which caused a delay in her power restoration). If only I'd had my chimney inspected prior to the storm (a job I had in fact contacted a company to do prior to Fiona ever forming in the south), we could have been comfortable using the the wood stove. But I was not about to add chimney fire to the chaos and destruction.

More to come.


Smashed leaves at my back door


One of my downed trees

Some of the damaged lines in front of my house, backlit by a beautiful sky at dusk. Normally there are two bundles of wires coming from the right side of that post, one to my house and one to my neighbours' house.


I took more pictures; unfortunately, it was twilight and they were very blurry. I didn't check them because it was so dark by then and we had no lights. Ah, well. Them's the breaks.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Still Kicking

Just a brief post to let you know we are all well here. 

We just had our power restored, twelve days after Hurricane Fiona hit.

It's been a long, loooooooong twelve days, my friends.

My mother stayed with me and is still waiting for a repair to her house power line. That is supposed to happen within the next few hours.

I feel for those who are still without power.

It was a storm for the record books.

More later.