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Weather bomb brings out the Canadian wimps

I am a Canadian. I live in the North. Therefore, I should expect it to be a little cold in the winter.

That’s the theory at least.

This is what I don’t understand. Those living in Florida have a slight right to freak out at the sight of a small flurry, but those in Canada? They have no excuse! Winter is something people should be preparing for in September, especially with the impact of global warming!

The fact is, it is cold in Canada. It snows in Canada. There are storms that hit every year in Canada. And yet — no one is ever prepared for them. These storms shut down subways, cause car accidents, and down hydro lines. Politicians seem shocked when suddenly they have to deal with homeless shelters at capacity, as if this is something that has never happened before. And this is just a regular Canadian winter.

So, imagine the panic when a meteorologist says a storm called a “bomb cyclone” was about to hit the East Coast.

A bomb cyclone was a term created more for social media than anything else. The actual term for a storm like this one is cyclogenesis or bombogenisis, and refers to a low pressure cold front that falls “24 millibars in 24 hours or less”. In simple terms, it means a cyclone in which the air moves up into the atmosphere to create precipitation. Due to the cold weather, this precipitation falls in the form of snow or hail.

Millibars measures the pressure of a cyclone. The standard pressure on Earth is 1013.2 millibars, so dropping to 24 millibars would indicate an incredibly “explosive” storm; hence the term bomb cyclone.

The so-called bomb cyclone dropped about 60 cm of snow to parts of New Brunswick over a period of 24 hours. The winds were a hurricane force of 170 km/h in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.The power is out for tens of thousands of residents and certain regions are still under blizzard warnings.

While the storm did result in some crazy photographs and video on social media, there were no deaths.

This is what irks me. Storms like these, albeit a bit frightening, happen every year. Maritimers survived, just like they always do. But, the Maritimes are different from the rest of the country. When a storm hits, they stand strong. They know it is coming and they work double-time to make sure neighbours are safe and infrastructure is repaired. The rest of the country? Big wimps!

With weather reaching -30 degrees with windchill, Ontario is freaking out. Politicians and news anchors are pleading residents to stay indoors. Events are being cancelled. All because of a little cold weather.

Sure, you can argue that -30 degrees is incredibly chilly. I would agree with that statement; however, this doesn’t just happen when the temperature drops below 30. The first snowfall in Toronto is hell! It’s like everyone forgets how to drive or dress for the winter. During the first snowstorm, it took me two hours to get home. It is usually a 30 minute commute. I look out my window and see teenage girls wandering around in short dresses and heels, and then complaining about frostbite!

Can the rest of Canada pull itself together and act…well, Canadian? Winter is not going anywhere, and you can’t hibernate for the next three months!

And if you do decide to hibernate, here is a tip: Next January, it may also be a bit nippy.

UPDATE 3 p.m: Hurricane Maria, category 5 storm, 1 dead

Overnight, Hurricane Maria was elevated to a category five storm, devastating the Dominica Caribbean Islands. It is being described by the National Hurricane Centre as “potentially catastrophic” and has led to at least one death as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Media reports claim one person has been killed in Guadaloupe after a tree branch fell on top of them.

Winds have increased to 260km/hr and water levels are raising seven to 11 feet above normal tide levels.

 

Officials in Dominica described the results of the storm as “widespread devastation”. As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, there were no reported deaths, but officials said the weather conditions make it difficult for a proper assessment to be made. Mostly, the damage is physical, with mass flooding and wind damage. The Dominica Prime Minister’s house was completely destroyed, the roof taken clean off. He needed to be rescued after his home started to flood. The Prime Minister updated his residences via Facebook.

The eye of the storm is expected to travel over Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Isles tonight. The governor of Puerto Rico has already declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm.

More to come.

UPDATED: Hurricane Maria, category 3 storm, set to hit Caribbean

The Caribbean Islands just can’t catch a break.

Earlier this morning, Hurricane Maria was upgraded to a category three storm and is moving along the same path as Hurricane Irma, the category five storm that left 37 dead.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, and Martinique.

A tropical hurricane warning was issued for St. Vincent, the Grenadines ,St. Martin, St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, and Puerto Rico.

According to the latest update provided by the U.S. National Hurricane Centre at 2 p.m. on Monday, the eye of the storm is located on Martinique moving westward. It will move through the Leeward Islands later this afternoon and evening. Winds are expected to gust at 200km/hr and Maria is being described as a “dangerous major hurricane.”

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the update reads. “The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the north and east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.”

Maria is expected to produce six to 12 inches of rainfall with isolated amounts of 20 inches across central and southern Leeward Islands as well as the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico can expect up to 25 inches. This can cause flash floods and mudslides.

More to come.

 

UPDATE : Hurricane Irma is now a post-tropical cyclone

To the people in the Leeward Islands and the state of Florida, Hurricane Irma will be remembered as one of the deadliest storms. Irma is actually still going strong, however, the storm is now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone in the south-eastern United States. With 40km/h winds, Irma is causing moderate rainfall as it tracks its way to the Tennessee valley.

This is nothing compared to the force Irma carried as it hit the Caribbean islands. It left countries completely devastated, nearly wiped off the map. So far, there have been 40 deaths as a result of Irma, with the toll sure to rise in the coming weeks.

Many island countries are struggling to rebuild and various international organizations and governments are contributing to the need. Virgin Atlantic CEO, Richard Branson, has already started raising money for Irma relief. Branson chose to ride out the storm by hunkering down in a wine cellar in his private home in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Many people in BVI are now homeless, with their houses reduced to complete rubble. As Branson said, short term aid and long-term recovery are important for the Caribbean communities to rebuild. The islands are not like metropolitan cities, but are small communities with less resources and disaster preparedness.

In Puerto Rico, over 1 million residents are slowly regaining power in an effort to recover from Hurricane Irma last weekend. Seventy per cent of the homes have their electricity restored, however, the last 30 per cent have to wait between two weeks and a month. Leading up to the storm, the island’s sole electricity provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, was left in a fragile state and authorities had even warned residents that they could face power outages for up to six months in some parts of the island. Thankfully, due to a change in the storm path this did not happen.

Hurricane Irma did, however, show the fragility of the Puerto Rican economy and the public– sector debt. The island is an unincorporated US territory and the US has offered federal assistance to help rebuild following the destruction caused by Irma. Many Puerto Ricans are now pushing for a rise in privatization and entrepreneurship to help strengthen the economy.

In Florida, there are approximately 15 million residents left without power and many people are left cleaning up the debris in the streets. It was reported that five residents of a South Florida nursing home died after losing power. Irma hit South Florida as a category three storm and immediately battered areas such as Miami and Venice Florida.

The storm featured a rare phenomenon known as a reverse storm surge. This sucked the water from coastal areas, resulting in an eerily desert looking landscape as the winds blew in reverse directions causing flooding in other parts. This affected even the Bahamas and the Key Largo and Tampa areas.

 

 

Many celebrities have already started raising relief for Hurricane Irma and Harvey. The Hand in Hand telethon was a star studded event, including performances that helped raise approximately $44 million . In Texas, the estimated loss from hurricane Harvey and Irma is an average $200 billion. As many communities rebuild and raise funds, Hurricane Jose is looming in the southwest Atlantic near the Bahamas and Bermuda. Jose is a category one storm, but is tracking an uncertain and unusual path. The storm may cause effects to the Atlantic Canada region.

Canada has sent $160K of relief for caribbean countries and continues to send disaster teams.

Are we ready?

By Kirk LaPointe

The newspapers have asked readers that question regularly for months. Since the last Boxing Day tsunami, since FEMA’s fumbling on Katrina, since the feeble response to the Pakistan earthquake and since the seemingly ceaseless warnings of the pandemic or the swift and surreal avian flu, we have wondered if we’re prepared. The media has given people tips on assembling disaster kits and provided them with the best possible advice on how to endure the first few days without electricity, running water, evacuation routes or a civil society to shoulder the burden of rescuing and keeping the peace.

But there is one issue that isn’t discussed. It is the notion that our physical readiness is much less of a challenge than our emotional willingness.

When you see people elbowing each other for Halloween candy in the supermarket, or jumping the Starbucks queue, or practically tackling the rival bidders for the latest downtown condominium showcase, there’s reason to doubt our capacity to set aside enough thought to deal with the strain and perhaps permanent adjustment of our values to handle the aftermath of a major natural disaster.

I’ve watched and read admiringly of the Southeast Asians who have rebuilt, with much help from abroad. But I didn’t see the same common purpose in New Orleans. And, with only a whiff of threat, it was astonishing to watch the selfishness as Hurricane Rita approached shore.

It might be too much of a bromide to restate how conditioned we are to look after ourselves first and foremost, how we’ve established material comfort as a first principle in our lives, how we’ve forgotten our neighbours and limited our involvement in community. There’s a relevant promotional ad for a Comedy Network television series taped in Vancouver, Robson Arms, in which the lead actor says he doesn’t know his neighbours — after all, he’s only been in the building for two years. If it weren’t so true, it would be funnier.

I don’t think the social terrain is firm enough to deal with the shaky ground we’re standing on. I’m not sure our leaders would lead us, or that we would follow. I’m not sure our systems would serve us, or that we would wait to be served.

In other words, I doubt we’re ready.

I look at how school children are learning so few life skills to work together in a jam. I don’t know of an office that takes its fire drills seriously, and I can’t imagine the desks rattling and the floor cracking and anything other than pandemonium ensuing

Where we are is where we can’t be, and at the risk of sounding like one of those apocalyptic fogies I’ve always decried as seriously in need of shedding their tin-foil hats, I think the time is coming where we won’t be able to run away from the serious threats risking our health and safety. I’m thinking about the cyclical, seemingly inevitable influenza that appears nearly upon us. I’m thinking about the weird and unmanageable avian flu that jumps to the human race, the freakish health disaster for which we will scramble to subdue. I’m thinking about the Big One that turns my townhouse into a detached dwelling. I’m thinking about the broken glass everywhere underfoot, the tainted water in the pipes, the natural gas lines whistling in our district, the loss of the Internet, the destruction of people who might lead us in our disarray, the worrisome situation every time night falls and the nastiest among us see the opportunity for advantage. This is what happens in middle age, I suppose.

But I think it deserves the attention that we gave deficit reduction, or the blood scandal, or the infernal sponsorship debacle. Anything less leaves us to our own devices.

Now, unlike the character in Robson Arms, I happen to know my neighbours and I have great faith we’ll pull together. Do you know yours? Do you have that same confidence? Do you see what I mean?

First published in Nov 2005 in Women’s Post Magazine