Editorial: Be ready

Published on March 14, 2017

Monday morning, and St. John’s streets were strewn with remnants of Saturday’s windstorm with winds stronger than a hurricane. The crusted snow was dotted with shingles, shards of yellow traffic lights, tree branches, shattered siding and tufts of insulation.

Wires came down, trees broke off, car windows exploded. All of that, while, often, the sun shone and clouds shot by.

At the height of the wind storm, Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier offered a teaching moment, saying that Fire and Emergency Services Newfoundland and Labrador, “is reminding municipalities to review their emergency management plans.”

That might not have been the best time for a teaching moment, but perhaps this is.

All of the Atlantic provinces have had their share of violent weather in the past fall and winter. Think of the Thanksgiving Day flooding in Cape Breton, along with high winds that at one point left 175,000 without electrical power in Nova Scotia, the successive storms that have battered that province, along with P.E.I. (four winter storms in a mere eight days), and the January ice storm that left New Brunswick with the second-worst power failures in its history. At one point, more than 130,000 NB Power customers were without power, literally one out of every three of that province’s electrical consumers —the worst winter power failure in that province.

The weather numbers are startling: in Sydney, N.S., the Oct. 12, 2016 storm brought 225 millimetres of rain, breaking the one-day rainfall record of 128.8 mm. In St. John’s, Saturday saw wind gusts topping 158 kilometres an hour, stronger than those felt in the city during hurricane Igor, and in parts of the province gusts reached 180 km/h. More than 70,000 lost power, with people in some rural parts of the province still without it well into Monday.

Back to that teaching moment: while power companies and emergency services do their part to keep people safe during storms, we all have a role to play.

First and foremost, stay out of the way. If you are safe where you are, stay there. Don’t add to the problems by trying to head out to the mall. Hunker down. And be ready: the Canadian Red Cross and government agencies say you should be prepared to be on your own for up to 72 hours during a major emergency — that means water, food, emergency medical supplies and prescription medications.

Advice on emergency preparedness can be found here. Keep in mind, you may have to plan for sources of heat as well.

Be aware of the risks, like the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented generators or heating appliances.

Seventy-two hours — three full days. Many of us have already learned the hard way that we aren’t ready. Let’s change that.