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September 21, 2018

Some of you may have heard about the six (SIX!!!) tornadoes that hit our area September 21st. Let me say upfront: we were totally fine - never even lost power.

 

Actually we were in the middle of picking Elizabeth up from ballet to take her and Matthew to karate when we got the warning on our phones. Brendan's a bit of a weather watcher so I did check with him before driving to karate - there were quite incredible gusts of wind but otherwise things seemed pretty normal. In any case,  the action was quite a bit south of us and it looked like we had loads of time before the storm hit so we carried on. Not sure in retrospect if that was the best decision, but I was glad I went if only to keep my nieces from biking home in the winds before the tornado warning had ended. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

It was a PD day, and it was a rainy one.

 

I wondered about the wisdom of parking under the trees at karate, but since we knew weather was incoming I decided not to take the time to look for something on the street but just headed into the dojo. Not long after the most incredible rain storm I have ever seen began - water was just sheeting down. Information about the damage in Dunrobin and Gatineau started coming in and we started eyeing the windows somewhat nervously, contemplating where exactly we would take cover.

 

I was surprised to find Maria hanging out in the dojo as she doesn't usually come on Fridays, and shocked to find out that the girls had received the tornado warning, ignored it and biked (!). Cue stern lecture from Aunt Mary about not being outside during a tornado warning - certainly not without having checked with an adult, or looking at the radar and certainly not using a bike when during a major windstorm!

 

Class ended and I was surprised to see parents arriving in the middle of the storm and leaving again. One kid goes "Mom, I don't want to go out in that" (smart kid). Mom: "Don't be silly, I brought your raincoat". From all accounts the driving was pretty hairy. Ottawa lost one of our main power substations, so most of the major intersections had no power.

 

Erika did get her third stripe though!

 

The following day people were asked not to drive through any major intersections without power because so many people were having collisions that it was tying up emergency services. Matthew and I decided we'd bike to karate. He was pretty excited because he loves biking. We'd never tried it before because you have to cross either Bank or Bronson bridges which are both completely unsafe to bike over, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a route over Bronson that is reasonable, if slightly nerve wracking with a five year old who doesn't quite know his left from right and has an alarming tendency to unexpectedly swerve into the road. Actually getting there was fine aside from Bronson having no bike light near Sunnyside so we had to get across the large intersection acting as a four way light. At least that's what I assumed and then suddenly realized halfway through that only HALF the lights were out (southbound was out and northbound was active) and we had just started biking across a three lane highway against a green light.

 

Then we couldn't get through because a large tree was down blocking Sunnyside and Leonard (did I mention my nieces bike right near there?) But eventually we got to karate. We had skating later that morning and it was in the east end so pretty much unaffected. The lights in that area were all working, so we decided we'd go (after confirming the arena was still operational, of course). We went apple picking as planned.

 

When I went shopping I was amused by what was available (kiwi, bug products...) and what was not (bread, toilet paper...)

 

More than three hundred traffic lights were not working for almost two days and many people and schools didn't have power, so they asked all the public servants to stay home, closed the museums and the English school boards closed all their schools. But our schools were open... so we went.

 

It struck me as slightly surreal how little impact it had on us overall. Texting on Saturday was a real annoyance (because the cell networks were all overloaded). The downspout from our gutter had to be reattached as it got knocked off with the force of the water coming off our roof. It rained so hard against the door in our garage that the drywall suffered some water damage through the hinge. My (remaining) corn got flattened. When we went skating we had to go to multiple gas stations because the first one was out of gas.  Ultimately though other than it being a bit of an inconvenience we got off very lightly.  Neighbours just a stone's throw away had no power for over 24 hours and many were without for several days.  The areas which received direct hits were out for 4-5 days.  We lent our generator out to save the contents of a deep freeze and suspect that many people will be shopping for generators in the near future.

 

Hopefully all of this will help people to take such weather warnings more seriously in the future and also to think a little more about their disaster plans (everyone has one right?), as we certainly will be.


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