Tropical Storm Arthur and the New Brunswick lack of preparedness
New Zealand has a lot of natural events, and a lot of “promises” of natural events. New Zealand has the “promise” of volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, and droughts.
And Kiwis are mostly ready for those things. Citizens are told to have their civil defense kits ready. People know where their closest “emergency safe zone” is (usually schools). When something happens, people know what to do, generally speaking.
New Brunswick has a different sort of natural events. Here there is no direct volcano “promise”. No major earthquake faults nearby. They’ve never experienced a tsunami threat. Wind/rain/twister events are few and far between, and mostly benign. New Brunswick does get major winter storms. New Brunswickers are people who would empty grocery stores, gas stations, and the local hardware store at the mere hint of a winter storm. They understand winter storms and the danger of no electricity/gas/food in winter, but summer weather is considered mild and not something to worry over.
So when the media started talking about Hurricane Arthur (later downgraded to Cyclone and then to Tropical Storm) everyone here in our town ignored it. “When they talk about Maritime weather, they mean Halifax. It doesn’t come here.” That’s what we heard from many people. “Don’t worry about the reported storm. It’s not coming here. We don’t have to prepare.”
Then Tropical Storm Arthur hit. And it didn’t just hit Halifax, like the locals thought it would. It hit New Brunswick, and hard. The wind knocked over so many trees onto power lines that most of New Brunswick was without power in the middle of a heat wave. NB Power had been slack and done no tree maintenance for over 5 years, we were told. They were forced into doing the maintenance! For some people, that meant no power for over a week.
The grocery stores were closed. They moved all their perishables to reefers (refrigerated trucks) and waited it out. Gas stations can’t pump gas without electricity. The one gas station with a generator had line ups for kms down the road.
Our family (used to civil defense warnings and summer weather storms) had two cars with full tanks of gas, and enough non-perishable food for 3 days. The only thing we didn’t have (and should have had) was cash on hand.
We watched the storm from the safety of our house, and called the fire station when some wires came crashing down on the road in front of our house. We played board games, read books, and even played some word games that the children enjoyed. When all else failed, we did go onto our devices (that were fully charged up before the storm).
We also watched in confusion as all these people were driving up and down our street in the middle of the storm. All the stores were closed (no power!). There was no where to go. It wasn’t really safe to drive – there were trees falling everywhere, wires down, and high rivers. And yet all of these people were driving.
The same people that would have stayed home if this were a winter snowstorm.
It was an interesting few days. We were lucky in that our power was back on within 48 hours. Others weren’t. And I wonder if they will learn from this and plan for summer storms just as well as they do for winter storms from now on.