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THE VIEW FROM HERE: A few parting words on hurricane Dorian

When Hurricane Dorian hit on Sept. 7, it left its mark throughout Nova Scotia and serves as a warning that we must be ready for the next major weather event because, like it or not, there will be another.
When Hurricane Dorian hit on Sept. 7, it left its mark throughout Nova Scotia and serves as a warning that we must be ready for the next major weather event because, like it or not, there will be another. - Vernon Oickle

Now that hurricane Dorian (technically tropical storm Dorian) is in the history books as one of the worst storms on record to ever hit Nova Scotia, it’s time for a few parting words on the beast.

First off, let’s just agree that the storm was nasty and destructive, one that has left a lasting financial impact on a great number of people and businesses, to say nothing of the emotional toll it took on thousands of people across the province. The one saving grace about Dorian was that no one was seriously injured or killed in this province.

So, while it was a major storm, the truth is that even with all its destruction, things could have always been much, much worse. Let us be thankful for that because while material things can be fixed or replaced, human lives cannot.

Speaking of being thankful, first and foremost we must acknowledge the hardworking crews with Nova Scotia Power and other utility services who worked around the clock and in some pretty extreme conditions to restore downed power lines. We have long ago accepted that we cannot do without electricity and running water for even a short period of time, let alone a week, and to be expected to do so is a challenge for most of us.

There are only a few things in life that can top that instant feeling of euphoria one experiences when one’s power comes back on after several days without electricity. Seriously, the emotional rush almost defies comparison.

In the recent storm’s immediate wake, more than 400,000 customers were left without electricity. Even though Nova Scotia Power says it deployed the largest number of crews in its history to repair the damage caused across the province by hurricane Dorian, they could not keep up and some areas were without power for a week, maybe even longer.

Of course, that’s not acceptable to those who were without power for that length of time, and we get it that Nova Scotia Power was doing its best, but even with assistance from other power crews from Canada and the US and the Canadian Forces, they just could not work fast enough.

Some will argue that it’s their job to quickly restore service, but let’s keep in mind that an army of workers across the province left the safety and comfort of their homes; they left behind their own families to face the ravages of a storm that was packing a powerful punch so they could respond to the needs of other.

Let’s keep everything in perspective, shall we? While we may be critical of Nova Scotia Power for taking so long to restore power in some places, we must be forever grateful that these qualified individuals were ready to spring into action while most everyone else was hunkering down to ride out the storm.

Communications challenges

As weather patterns change and these extreme storms become more common, it will be essential that everyone becomes better prepared and this includes all service providers. Now that Dorian is behind us and the clean up is well in hand, it’s time to debrief, discuss what worked, assess what didn’t work and prepare for the next major event because we know it’s coming.

And, while the Internet does not rank up there with power and water, it has quickly become an essential service, not so much for the entertainment value (although that is important to many people), but for the vital communication link it provides, especially if there is a medical emergency. Anyone who lost their connection in the aftermath of hurricane Dorian was surely tested as communication all but grinded to a halt in many regions across the province.

Unlike previous storms to hit Nova Scotia, telecommunication services were tested beyond the norm and Dorian stands as a warning to all providers that they must prepare contingency plans. Consider this experience a test, but like other services, Nova Scotians now depend upon their Internet connection and, while some lost services can be accepted and tolerated for a short period, expecting to go an inordinate length of time without service is unbearable.

Even though electricity and communication services are vital to us, nothing is more important than protecting lives. On that note, there are simply not enough words to express the gratitude we are surely feeling toward the men and women who braved the storm’s powerful wind, rain and ocean surge to make sure everyone else was safe. From firefighters and paramedics to police officers and other emergency personnel, to Department of Highway works and municipal employees, these brave women and men were on call around the clock to help their fellow citizens as we all tried to cope with the storm.

Some may point out that it’s their job to respond in an emergency and that would be a valid point. However, risking one’s own safety and wellbeing in the face of a potentially killer storm takes a certain amount of courage, fortitude and strength. In the end, we must take comfort in knowing that someone is there to help us if, heaven forbid, we should ever need them.

Helping others

Going the extra mile is what Nova Scotians do in times of crisis. We’ve seen it time and time again, but during the recent storm, everyone went above and beyond the call of duty from helping their neighbours in their time of need to assisting in comfort stations that were established throughout the province.

No one wants to leave their home during a time of crisis, but sometimes the circumstances dictate that you must seek shelter somewhere else even if it’s just for a short period so that you can get a warm meal or charge your phone, or just to connect in the comfort and safety of others, away from the elements and your dark, cold home.

Volunteers in dozens of communities throughout Nova Scotia worked at comfort stations, while many individuals and businesses donated food and other necessary items to ensure those seeking safety from the storm were able to do so. No one wants to see a disaster strike, but it is comforting to know that others will be there to help if the need arises.

Nova Scotians are a resilient people and we like to think we’re prepared for anything and everything, and we are, for the most part. It’s remarkable and impressive at the same time to see how everyone springs into action to help others in such situations. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s all these fine people expect.

Hurricane Dorian was a powerful storm that left serious and lasting impacts on many people in this province and, indeed, across the Maritimes. If we’ve learned anything from this major weather event it’s that we all must be prepared for and expect the worst because these storms are likely to be the new normal, and that’s the view from here.

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