Dear friends, I wanted to provide an update on our Hurricane Fiona experience here in Prince Edward Island. Since the storm hit on Friday night, we have been amazed at just how powerful it was. I appreciate the kind personal notes and shows of support via email, Twitter, and DMs. I hope this note will fill folks in while I catch up on correspondence.
In brief: We are safe and well, mostly dry, relatively well fed, and we have intermittent cell access that is increasingly stable.
We have been without electricity since midnight Friday or early Saturday morning. It really was a harrowing experience trying to sleep through the night of the storm, waiting for the next transformer to explode into yellow and green light, or the next tree to crack like thunder and fall into the darkness. However, our most pressing issue was a flooded basement—filling my office and family room floor with water when we no longer had power to run the sump pumps. After dawn, in the eye of the hurricane, I was able to get a generator to fire the pumps. It was a close call, but by mid-afternoon Saturday we were mostly dry. We saved the computer equipment and all the books—though Dorothy Sayers’ letters were in some danger.
Beyond the water damage, we are thankful that we don’t have any structural problems with our house and barn. We are sad that of the 6 trees on our property, the storm took out 5 of them. About 1/3 of the branches from our young (about 45-year-old) Maple came down, and its sister next door was demolished. However, the Maple tree with Nicolas’ treehouse held firm. Two 15-year-old paper birches fell—though one of them is snapped at a high enough point that it may throw up its crazy white branches and keep going. Saddest of all, is the loss of our 17-year-old Cherry tree. The Cherry provides shade and colour and pollinates with a neighbour’s tree, a place for birds and bees and cats’ fascinations. Its leaves were just turning auburn and burgundy this week. It fell and crushed the dwarf apple tree (and part of the garden) beneath it. It is a loss. Admittedly, that apple tree is the ugliest thing in nature besides mole rats, with tasty wormy apples from branches glued back together after previous storms. It may survive yet.
There are many losses that are much greater than ours in the storm—including friends’ homes and the Prince Edward Island land- and shore-scapes, which are forever changed. We did not prepare well for this storm, but we have resources that many don’t have. Though the fridge food is mostly gone, there is a generator that is cycling through the neighbourhood to keep freezer meat from spoiling. We are using it to keep our basement dry and charge laptops and devices for work, connection, and entertainment—for my work did not cease with the storm. We ran out of gas in the generator, but a neighbour came by who had gas but his basement was flooded, so that exchange worked well. If we can get the time and someone to lift the generator, we will siphon some gas to take it to Kerry’s parents’ house—both of whom are fine, but want to warm up the house and keep food from spoiling. We also have a church community that would support us if we needed help.
I really wish my chainsaw hadn’t been stolen, because there is much work to do. I wish we had prepared for a week without electricity rather than a weekend, because we are constantly improvising. I wish I hadn’t = put my back out lugging this generator around (though it’s only spasms now, very light pain, I can do stretches). However, given the damage that others have sustained, we feel fortunate, blessed, and hopeful.
And it is a beautiful blessing to rediscover and re-member neighbourliness. A neighbour had improvised a cooking bowl in his backyard and asked for wood from our winter pile. We could give his family dry wood from our basement and he taught folks in his building how to cook safely. Another neighbour spent two days cleaning up his downed trees and gave me the Maple wood he can’t mill for next year’s fire. I have had one of the local drug suppliers kindly offer me something “stronger than ibuprofen” for my back, which was kind of sweet. My counsellor was able to do a session in candlelight in his office, a real gift—though he reacted to me bringing him home-brewed coffee as if I was the one gifting him! One of our neighbours—whose house we can now see because the trees between us are gone—is going about the neighbourhood collecting items for a chicken soup. We traded some herbs, carrots, and corn for supper tonight. It is a pretty lovely Stone Soup moment.
So, best wishes to you all. We are responding to well-wishers when we get moments of electrical connection. I’m reconfiguring my local classes to alleviate student concerns, but it will be a week or so before work stuff is back to normal for us.