Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chapter 21

September 28, 2003.  The talk all week on the news had been about an approaching storm with the name of Juan.  Talk was that this storm was going to be hurricane strength by the time it reached the Nova Scotia coast.  Over the years there had been such forecasts off and on, but I couldn't remember any particularly bad ones.  I had never experienced a hurricane and unless you've lived through one you don't have the knowledge to prepare for it.  I did however take down my hanging plants and stack the lawn chairs in the corner of the deck!

That evening I listened as the winds began to pick up with alarming speed and the rain started beating down in torrents.  By midnight our little house was shaking on its foundation and the wind sounded like a train overhead, roaring nonstop!

Later I would learn the following details of this event.  Hurricane Juan made landfall in Nova Scotia September 29, 2003 at 12:10am.  Eight people would lose their lives because of this storm.  It was to go down as the most damaging storm in modern history to hit Halifax and the surrounding area.  It had sustained winds of 158 km/h with gusts to over 185 km/h, putting it as a category 2 hurricane.  The eastern eye wall of the hurricane (which has the worst of the winds) came in right over Halifax Harbor, Eastern Passage sits at the mouth of the Harbor!  Halifax recorded an all time record water level which resulted in extensive flooding to the area.  The boardwalk and alot of buildings along the water in Eastern Passage were completely destroyed and some cases washed away with the flooding.  Huge boulders from the ocean were thrown up on roads in the community.  There were many boats that ended up in yards that were streets away from where they had been tied up in the water!

I thought we were going to die.  I had never experienced anything like this before.  The livingroom window was actually heaving back and forth from the strength of the winds outside.  I couldn't stay in that room and watch the window do that, I was sure it was going to come crashing in on us at any I closed the curtains (I don't know what I thought that would prevent!).  Outside the air was blue with transformers blowing one after another, we lost our power and it would be a week before it was restored.

I went into the kitchen and saw water rushing through the kitchen window.  The house was nearly 100 years old and had the old windows.  The rain had filled up between the storm window and the regular window and was pouring through the cracks all over the floor.  The outer window had to be taken off and quickly!  Gary went out onto the deck but the wind was so strong it was all he could do to keep his balance and hold on.  He yelled at me to get Josiah.  To this day I don't know how the kids were still asleep, but they were!  I got Josiah up and he went outside with his father to try and help.  He was 17 now, but very slight of build...I feared that he was going to be blown right off the deck!  They managed to get the outer window removed and get back into the house safely.  I grabbed towels to soak up all the water that had flooded the kitchen.

I went into the bedroom and sat on the side of the bed which was literally shaking and thought that we weren't going to live through the night.  Somehow though I eventually dozed off and it was the piercing quietness that woke me up.

I went out on the front step.  I don't know if I can do justice with just words to the scene I witnessed, but I'll try.  There was an eerie morning light and a stillness and  heaviness to the air with not the faintest breeze to be felt.  The neighbor to the left of us had his garage collapse on his car.  The house to our right had all its windows blown out and down from it was a house with only 1/2 a roof left.  The lane (we lived on a dirt lane) was covered with power and telephone wires.  Some of the poles were on the ground, others were standing at weird angles. Our neighbors across the street had just days before bought a big old-fashioned wooden swing which was now just a pile of wood sitting by our car.  Behind our house in a field, many big tree's had come down.  The only damage we sustained was a partly fallen fence, a few missing shingles off the shed and a bbq which was greatly bent out of shape...and some missing lawn chairs!

Gary took a hammer to the bbq to try and get it working again.  I took things like mayonnaise, milk, eggs etc and put them into cold water in the kitchen sink where they would last a day or so.  When the bbq was in working order again I cooked up all the meat that had been frozen in the freezer.  It was quite a week.  Neighbor began helping neighbor, those with working bbq's helped those who had no way of preparing meals; there was sharing of coffee and food.  I found out later that the little corner store gave away all frozen and refrigerated products instead of letting them go bad.  Bedtime was when it became dark, what candles I had, used up in no time and batteries became a scarce commodity.

It would be two years before my forsythia bushes would bloom again or the gooseberry bushes would produce any berries!

My heart pounds now whenever a hurricane forms in the Atlantic.  One thing has changed though, when a hurricane threatens the shores of Nova Scotia, I prepare...and pray!

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