So, it looks like I may have ticked off more than just the head injury gods last week (How? I don’t even know).
The last few weeks in Ottawa have been unseasonably warm – hotter than the summer. All that changed on Wednesday as a cold front rolled in at the end of the school day. Standing there with the other parents waiting to pick up kids, I watched the dark clouds whipping in and we took bets whether we’d make it home dry. Occasional gusts of warm wind made me wonder if my flimsy mid-thigh-length skirt had been the best choice of clothing (spoiler alert: it was not).
When the bell rang, and the kids ran out, the sky was still was still blue enough that some parents hung around to play on the playground. I ran inside to check with my concussed kid’s teacher about the next day’s planned activity day (they told me to keep him home). As I got back outside, a few raindrops fell lazily from the sky.
The kids and I hurried toward home, less than ten minutes away. By the time we reached the sidewalk, the rain was heavy enough to need the umbrellas I’d brought, just in case.
A gust of wind hit my umbrella and tried to flip it inside out. I shouted for the kids to cross to the side street – a route that’s slightly longer, but more sheltered from the wind. We caught up to another family, who hadn’t brought umbrellas, and my daughter matched pace with them, determined to share her own umbrella, leaving the boys and me in her wake.
Thunder boomed overhead.
About a minute later, at the bend in the road, the wind swirled around us so fiercely it picked up my skirt in one motion, turning it completely inside out, and plastering to my abdomen like a second shirt. If anyone could have seen out their windows, they would have got a good look at me in my underwear.
I didn’t even try to push it down, but just pressed on.
The boys were having trouble walking against the wind. They were still struggling with their umbrellas – now completely inside out – and I screamed at them to put them down and run. I couldn’t see my daughter anywhere.
The world around us looked like footage from a hurricane. Solid walls of water, moving sideways, trees leaning, barely any visibility beyond a few feet. There are no sidewalks on the road, and I was terrified a car was going to come out of nowhere and hit us.
Within ten seconds of putting down my umbrella I was drenched. I didn’t have to worry about my skirt flying up, it was far too sodden to go anywhere. My running shoes were filled with puddles. I urged the boys forward, but the concussed boy (Boy #2) fought my demands to hurry, since he was under doctor’s orders not to run.
We hit the edge of the road, a straight run on sidewalks to our house, and I screamed for Boy #1 to run home as fast as he could. I grabbed the hand of Boy #2 and ran with him at a slow jog – worried for both our heads – but by now the rain was already easing up. My feet sloshed with every step.
As I turned the corner to our house, visibility had returned enough to see the streets were filled with bits of trees. The Girl ran up to me in a panic. “Mama, look!” she pointed into our side yard.
Had we just walked home in a tornado?
But no. At least not according to the news. It was a “micro burst.”
Inside, we discovered we had no power – but the power company’s message assured us it would be back on within two hours. I called my husband to ask him to pick up food, and checked in on others.
Sirens filled the air outside, along with the smell of smoke. We locked ourselves in, windows closed, and waited.
The power didn’t come back for almost 24 hours. We went for a walk that night to see the damage and were astounded: tree and power lines down, eavestrough ripped right off houses, and a house that caught on fire (from a tree knocking a live power line onto the roof). Plus, I’m told a child from my kids’ school was hit by a falling tree. It’s almost a week later and (at the time of writing this) the wooded area near my house is still closed due to the amount of damage from the storm.
The storm lasted less than ten minutes.
It seems almost unreal how much damage was done in such a short amount of time. How lucky we were not to get hurt (a large tree came down on the faster route home, so it was a very good thing I chose the more sheltered, if longer, route), or have more damage to our own property.
And it also made me think about Puerto Rico, and how much worse it is there. How much longer and stronger their storm was. How hard it was to feed my family with no power for 24 hours, when some of the stores around me still had power – and what it would be like to be without it, potentially for months… Not to mention the added luck we had, that the storm brought cool weather with it, so we didn’t have to struggle in the heat without electricity to help keep us cool.
We were lucky, but the people of Puerto Rico weren’t, and now they need help. Some fabulous kidlit people have got together to raise money via an auction that ends tonight (Thursday October 5th at 10pm), so if you want to help out and maybe score some cool kidlit prizes, check it out here.
In the meantime, maybe start thinking about some small changes you can make to affect your environmental footprint. If we all do a little bit, maybe we can slow down climate change before these storms become everyday occurrences.