Monday, September 24, 2018

Out of Power, Not Out of Canada

These snapped polls were on the way to Carleton and not far from
where a tornado touched down directly on the key substation--there are
apparently two in Ottawa.
While much of my blogging shortfall of late has been grant-writing induced, I was mostly offline since Friday afternoon due to a storm, complete with a couple of tornadoes, that ravaged Ottawa's power infrastructure as well as doing heaps of damage to a few neighborhoods.  No one I knew was harmed, and no one has yet died, which is pretty amazing given the pictures and the force--the first F3 tornado in 120 years and it went through some populated areas.

The timing was good and bad.  Good in that most of the blackout was over a weekend.  Bad in that Mrs. Spew and I are headed soon to visit Executive Assistant Spew in Hollywood, so the usual trip prep was inhibited.  Good in that it was a decent fall weekend--not hot or cold.  Also, I had just done the laundry, later in the week than usual thanks to my recent trip, so no problem running out of clothes.  And the costco trip just hours before the power outage meant lots of fresh bagels. 

We have also been going through a run of post-apocalyptic movies for some reason just before it happened and the first night since I had one on my ipad (two different mediocre movies called Extinction).  On the way back from Prague, I watched How It Ends, where a man and his father-in-law, Forrest Whitaker, travel from Chicago to Seattle after the west coast is hit by something and then the power goes out across the US.  As soon as the two sneak past the army blockade, they find themselves in an anarchic world of kill or be killed over gas and working cars.  Yeah, it took one day in the movie for things to break down.  Canada?  Did far better than that:
  • The only damage in our neighborhood was to a car that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The irony?  The car belongs to the guy who obsessively washes it every week.  He lost his back window, so even that is not too bad.
  • With the traffic lights dead, we had plenty of confusion but not conflict as four way stops are easy when it is two one lane roads meeting, but not when you toss in a couple of additional lanes and left turn lanes.  
  • And, yes, we drove. Not to tour the areas that were hit hard, but to get power and internet.  Our cell phones only had spotty access as the towers and other cell phone infrastructure apparently relies on power....  Who knew.  So, I would occasionally be able to get on twitter/facebook/etc to inform friends/relatives that we were ok--no zombies or cannibals spotted yet.  But we had to make a run to an island of stability and long food lines--Carleton.  So, we went to my workplace to charge all our devices and batteries, hangout on the internet for a bit, and grab some food. 
  • Saturday night, we went out to an area that had electricity to see a movie--Crazy Rich Asians--and the only restaurant that didn't have an hour wait was McDonalds.  We did not eat healthily.  We probably should have grilled at home--our neighbors did.
  • Our neighbor's kid had a hockey practice Saturday night at a rink very close to the epicenter of the storm, where our electrical substation got hit dead on.  But the rink had a generator, so they went and he practiced.  Because, damn it, the most valuable commodity in Canada is ice time.  
  • Last night, we still didn't know when power to our area would come back so our pal at work, Stephanie Carvin, let us shower and power up there. Better than at the nearby gym, which also had a generator, as people lined up in their bathrobes!
  • We were told that our meat and other frozen stuff would be good for 48 hours.  Alas, our power was out for 53 hours or so.  Out of an abundance of caution, much of our frig contents and some of our freezer contents will be going into dumpsters arranged by the city, as waiting until recycling/garbage day would lead to stinky neighborhoods.
  • I did learn that generators are loud as a few of our neighbors had them.  So are CO detectors without power.  I had to wrap one of ours up in a blanket and stuff it in our car so that the occasional beeping would not freak out our cat.
  • Facebook was actually a force for good, as the local community page produced much accurate information about when the power would come back, about the spoiled meat dumpsters and more.  
As far as weather emergencies go, this was not a bad one.  No deaths, some serious damage, but only a long weekend of inconvenience.  I whined a lot, because that is what I do.  But I got heaps of reading done (tenure file, new book for my class, fun stuff) as we were well armed with flashlights (Costco has good ones for cheap on a regular basis).  My biggest worry was that the server on which the big grant application rests might be messed up.  Nope, we lost access, but the data remained intact.

Anyhow, compared to the storms hitting the US, we were ok.  And the Canadian politeness remained intact.  We might not have hit kill or be killed until day five or six, unlike how it works in the US according to the movies we had seen recently.

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