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THE VIEW FROM HERE: Riding out Dorian


OK, I’ll admit it. By the time Friday, Sept. 6 rolled around, I was freaking out.

Seriously, anyone who had followed the devastating progress of hurricane Dorian - the killer storm bashing and grinding its way through the Bahamas, up the American eastern seaboard and then making a beeline to Nova Scotia - had every reason to be nervous, if not downright afraid.

The swath of death and destruction it left in its wake had reached catastrophic proportions in the south Atlantic and now, our province lay squarely in its path. Anyone who said they weren’t intimidated by the massive storm was simply not being truthful or they were very naïve as all signs indicated this was going to be a massive storm that would still pack a punch by the time it reached us … it did; well beyond anything could have imagined.

Yes, I know we’ve endured major storms in the past and it’s also true that storm warnings have become an all too familiar occurrence in this era of global warming, but it was clear that Dorian, packing winds that had previously reached Category 5 level strength, was going to match, if not surpass, the fury of other massive storms that have hit our region, even the most recent killer, hurricane Juan from 16 years earlier.

Following the news coverage of the death, destruction and absolute devastation that Dorian delivered to the Bahamas, all we could do was hope and pray that the storm would be well spent when — not if — it made its way north. By earlier in the month, it had become painfully clear that the hurricane was, indeed, targeting the Maritimes. More specifically, all the models indicated that the storm had set its sights on Nova Scotia.

For the first time in my memory, officials had issued a hurricane warning for the entire province while decision-makers in Halifax Regional Municipality called for a voluntary evacuation of residents living in coastal regions. It may be possible that such orders had been initiated in the past and I just don’t remember them, but this was scary stuff, folks.

Based on the storm projections, there was enough data to suggest there was reason to be alarmed and that a threat was imminent. Thankfully, the early warnings gave people the chance to be prepared for the worst.

Perhaps it was the images coming out of the Bahamas, but clearly, there was something about this approaching storm that made people sit up and take notice, as they should whenever such warnings are issued. Thanks to the 24-hour news channels and social media platforms, it’s easy to become jaded, complacent and dismissive about these warnings, as they seem to happen at regular intervals these days.

However, I would rather be forewarned of possible danger in order to be prepared in the event of a major storm than to be caught off guard. And that’s exactly what Dorian was — a powerful and destructive storm, one that begged to be reckoned with. It demanded our attention and wanted to be taken seriously.

Thankfully, it appeared that most Nova Scotians paid attention to the warnings and prepared for the worst, as best they could. By the evening of Sept. 6, many businesses throughout the province had announced they would remain closed the next day — the date of Dorian’s predicted arrival — for the safety and wellbeing of their customers and staff.

Likewise, many community groups and organizations either postponed or cancelled their events for the same reasons. Good for them. With a possible Category 2 hurricane zeroing in on us, it was the smart move.

I mean, when was the last time you heard of a major resort like White Point Beach cancelling reservations and shutting down overnight for the safety of guests and staff? When was last time that you heard Kejimkujik National Park had asked campers to leave so they could close down operations? When was the last time that all provincial parks, campgrounds, and beaches were closed province-wide? When was the last time that major commercial outlets and shopping malls in Metro and other centres around the province remained closed even before the storm hit?

This was serious and people took heed of the warnings, as service stations across Nova Scotia ran out of gasoline and grocery store shelves were picked clean as Nova Scotians filled up and stocked up on essentials. The message had been sent and received: Dorian was not a storm to be taken lightly. In fact, by the evening of Sept. 6, you could sense that there was something serious in the air.

By Friday night, Dorian had been upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane with Nova Scotia sitting smack-dab in its path. It was like a heinous, killer monster lurking in the dreary darkness, a cunning menace that had methodically zeroed in on its prey, that being all of us in this beautiful province.

Again, I will admit, there were many tense hours in the last day leading up to Dorian’s arrival. And then when it ultimately arrived on Sept. 7 with all its breathtaking fury and anger, there where many more nerve-wracking hours. Hurricanes are among the most powerful forces in nature and even though by the time Dorian hit our shores it had been downgraded again to a still-powerful Category 1, this was not a storm to be taken lightly.

Riding out the fury of a raging hurricane is not a fun experience nor is it for the faint of heart. While in the past we may have taken some comfort in the fact these monstrous weather events were a very rare occurrence in this part of the world, we can no longer be complacent about that for it appears we now live with a new reality, one in which these storms will hit with more regularity.

If we are to believe — and we absolutely should — the indisputable scientific facts that the earth’s surface is heating up, then such storms will become more common. In truth, we ignore the signs and warnings at our own peril, and that’s the view from here.

Vernon Oickle writes The View From Here column, which appears weekly in the South Shore Breaker. He can be reached at vernon.l.oickle@Eastlink.ca.

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