It is day 13 since Hurricane Fiona, and I have been updating my feed on Facebook with daily notes about life without power. But it is day 1 of being restored to the electrical grid. I woke up to this symbol on my phone: 100% Fully Charged. It was a relief.
Physically and emotionally, I’m not quite fully charged. But our devices, fridge, and hot water heater are ready to go. This morning felt very normal: alarm sounds, flick on a light, hot shower, dress, check email and online news, and then hastily throw together lunches since I didn’t give myself enough time to get out the door on time. Typical Thursday.
No generators rumbling rudely day and night, no keeping things in the freezer because the fridge isn’t cold, no bread and peanut butter on the go, no heating hot water on the BBQ, no showering at the gym, no looking at the outage map to see when we might see our community get hooked back up to the grid.
Living 12 days in an “emergency” scenario has been a powerful and unusual experience.
As I talked about in “Day 7 Without Electricity,” “Stone Soup, Cherry Trees, and Shorelines: An Update from Prince Edward Island on Hurricane Fiona,” and some Facebook posts, there have been beautiful aspects of Fiona’s aftermath. We strengthened our relationship with our neighbours as we gathered around to support one another. We were able to give and receive gifts of friendship, time, food, gas, and little reprieves from apocalyptic doom. We have received dozens of lovely notes of cheer and offers of help, and I have a deeper understanding of the unseen webs of support that are part of my daily life. I have also gained a deeper appreciation of how much of my modern life is a gift that I take for granted: hot food, hot coffee, hot showers, cold drinks, safe food, everlasting Internet access, a phone line, light before dawn and after dusk, a warm and dry house.
I have also come to see how fortunate we are. It was during Hurricane Ida last year–where we got something like 120 mm of rain in 90 minutes–when I realized that my home was built for winter storms, but not equipped for tropical storms and hurricanes. As my friend Alan MacEachern notes here, historically, Prince Edward Island is susceptible to summer and autumn storms. His write-up of the “October Gale” 99 years ago is eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Fiona’s impact.
However, I don’t think of PEI as a hurricane place. Ida’s deluge gave me the impetus to prepare for future storms. Thus, we had the ability to keep our freezer cold, save the house from significant water damage, and keep connected with our students and family. These plans were the difference between discomfort and disaster.
But we were also lucky. As lovers of camping, we had supplies that many urban folk wouldn’t even dream of keeping around, like tarps, bungee cords, coolers, lamps, candles, and cooking stoves. With camping in mind, I bought a boxful of outdoor extension cords at a yard sale one year, and we used every inch of cord available to us in the last 12 days. We had our chainsaw stolen, but we had the resources to make a 2-hour pilgrimage and purchase one of the last chainsaws in the Province. We have a wood stove as part of our heat plan in the house, which gave us the ability to heat the house and dry the basement without the need of power.
And, most fortunate of all, we have a huge support network of neighbours, friends, family members, work colleagues, and church folk that could step in if things tilted toward disaster–and who stepped in just to make bad things better.
Even with planning and luck, many things were far more difficult than they should have been. It was clear that I never understood the capacities of what a storm like this could do. Thus, while we battened hatches well, we were only prepared for 3 or 4 days of emergency living, not 12. While my work demands never ceased, from dawn to dusk of every day, I found myself caught up with endless little tasks and unpredictable jobs that were ncecesary to keep my household going–not to mention supporting my wife’s parents, helping out around the neighbourhood, and encouraging my students–many of whom are new to PEI and Canada, and are feeling somewhat adrift.
It has been physically exhausting and emotionally wearisome–especially the gassy, gnawing, rumbling wine and chatter of diesel tractors and chainsaws and generators, which in the last few days have been running at all hours of day and night.
And even as I sectioned my fallen Cherries, Maples, and Birches for firewood, it feels like a loss.
This whole experience has taught me much. It may have been far worse–and is far worse for so many others. Thank you to everyone who sent a nice note, dropped off gas or food, helped us clean up debris and block trees, and waited patiently for delayed emails, messages, and bits of work. While I have been in the dark for nearly two weeks, I have drawn energy from all of you.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, you bring a sense of reality that I would not otherwise have. I’m glad the recovery is progressing but it may take some time yet, there is much to contemplate here.
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Thanks for the well wishes, Owen!
Brenton, I thought of you after Ian swept by our home in Florida. So glad to see you are posting again.
I’m glad you survived Ian. It was a much more catastrophic affair.
Just one of those things to contemplate is that it has been … TWELVE DAYS.
With Michaelmas exactly at mid-point.
These things do sometimes have a synchronicity.
Glad things are getting resolved and that you have come out as well as you have. Everything is a learning experience, we can only hope the lessons aren’t incredibly painful. Camping is useful for both skill development and thing procurement. I camp historically, so I am better prepared than many but certainly not as prepared as I would like to be. There is always more to be done.
There is. And “thing procurement” is never a problem for me! We bought an old pop-up trailer last year, and I’ve had to reduce supplies. It was a good process. I still have my “thing box” I take in the car, though–3 drawers of everything I could imagine needing.
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Glad to hear things are resolving. Wow. Glad you are safe.
We are safe … and now to catch up and clean up!
Writing from the UK and am delighted that you have got through all that has been going on with you and Florida. We, of course, have no experience of this type of disaster and can only look on with disbelief. Hopefully, life wii return to some form of normality.
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I am endlessly tired, but otherwise we are quite well!