We knew about the storm, we read the forecasts, we smiled at Frankie’s warning to be prepared (I can’t post the weather warning here but to get the idea of his style you can click here), we cancelled our trip to the island for the weekend and waited to see what would come.
After 40 hours disconnected from power and from the world, it is a relief to be back. Hurricane/post tropical storm Arthur raged for the whole of Saturday causing around a thousand trees to fall in the city and knocking out power for a huge number of people across the Maritimes. I am thankful that we had only a few branches fall onto our yard and a roof leak (yes, indeed) into our bedroom. We saw far worse as we travelled around the city. In true Canadian style when Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny everyone was out, chain saws whirring, tidying up the debris from the storm. By the evening our street looked neat and tidy again, and the hum of generators filled the air.
The memories of this weekend that will stay with me, apart from the sad sight of so many fallen trees, are the long lines of cars waiting for the drive thru for coffee outside the Tim Horton’s that was still open, when we arrived for the church meeting at the Convention Centre on Sunday and people, starved of internet access, lining the corridors of the Convention Centre charging their devices, and yesterday afternoon, every table in Second Cup on Prospect Street filled with people, charging their laptops or phones and staring at their screens in silence!
We woke up without power on Saturday morning, our telephone worked for a little while until the reserve battery ran out, but then that was that. So, I got the battery-powered radio out to find out what was going on. In vain, I scanned through the radio stations trying to hear some local, current information. All that was on were the regular pre-recorded programmes and news bulletins that were minimal in content. I was a little shocked. What I and I suspect many others needed was information on what was happening with the power, whether it was safe to go out, if any stores were open, which gas/petrol stations were open, roads that were closed, what was still going on and what was cancelled, just general information. There was nothing. Of course, some of that information takes just a little common sense, but I’d expect the radio to be providing some of it. The people who knew more were those who have a data plan with their cell phones, 3G, 4G or whatever it is called, and could go online. To me it is worrying to rely on the internet for information. There are so many people who don’t have access to it. In situations like these, those with access to information are those who can afford to pay for expensive plans. Those who can’t afford it have more difficulty in obtaining it.
Our power came on late last night. When I looked at Facebook there were posts from people offering help, but I doubt those who needed it could see it until the time had passed.
Thankfully, Fredericton is a friendly place. Information and help comes through word of mouth from friends and neighbours. We had varying reports as to how long our power would be out – maybe 72 hours, maybe three days, could be a week. We waited in a long line to fuel the car, in another long line to refill the propane tank for the barbecue, our neighbours allowed us to plug our fridge into their generator, we got ready for the long haul. In the end it was far shorter, though I know others in the area are still waiting.
Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. Her day did not turn out as planned. She had been looking forward to eating Cow’s ice cream on Prince Edward Island, we couldn’t Facetime or Skype with our family in the UK and, as you may know, I’m an avid baker and I couldn’t even bake her a birthday cake! It was a bit disappointing for her. At tea time, the doorbell rang and our friend, Apryl, came in with freshly baked cupcakes she had baked in her camp oven – such a thoughtful thing to do. I was impressed, and Issie’s face lit up as we sang, ‘Happy birthday’. A special moment in the frustration of the day, though I think it is a birthday she will never forget.
Next time there’s a storm forecast, I won’t just smile at Frank’s weather warning, I will do the things he suggests and be better prepared – beforehand rather than risking our necks driving round the city in the middle of a storm with all the others who weren’t prepared. The radio, the thing on his list we did have, I won’t bother with…