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After the Tornadoes – Power to the People

It was a strange week.

It was a long week.

The two main school boards in Ottawa cancelled classes last Monday, given the significant number of schools still without power and repair work needed in others. Federal government employees, i.e. half of the city, were asked to work from home.

Turned out we weren’t hit by two tornadoes but six.

When supermarkets reopened on Sunday or Monday, they were packed because people had to restock their fridges and freezers but the shelves were empty—no yogurts, no milk, no cheese, no frozen products or very few. And when there was meat, fish, ice cream or pizza in the frozen food aisles, people were slightly suspicious. How did the company handle a few days without power? Was it safe to buy food?

On Tuesday, we had a series of power outages—I’m now an expert on setting the time on various appliances, I HEARD YOU MICROWAVE, STOP BEEPING!

All week, city crews were cleaning up debris and hydro workers were stabilizing the power supply. I saw more Hydro Ottawa trucks these past eight days than in 15 years in Ottawa. These guys worked hard, I’ll happily pay my bill next month.

A few supermarkets and businesses are collecting donations to the Red Cross funds to help people in Ottawa and Gatineau affected by the disaster.

We’re back to normal… kind of. Every now and then, there’s a reminder that we spent last weekend looking for a power source, that for a few days, we were all in the same boat—resourceful but powerless.

Yesterday, I was paying for my coffee at Starbucks when I noticed the barista was looking out the window. “Looks like dark clouds over there,” he said with a hint of worry in his voice. Everybody turned around to see the approaching storm, someone even checked his phone for a possible weather alert. We’re all a bit paranoid now.

We were lucky. Some people lost everything they had—it happened fast, in a matter of seconds. Tornadoes are one of these freak events you can’t prepare for.

Later, relatives asked me if we were scared. We weren’t—not because we’re particularly brave but because we didn’t have the time to be scared. I didn’t get the Alert Ready emergency warning system on my phone. All I saw was a very bad thunderstorm and power going off suddenly. Feng was on his computer and he heard the emergency alert on TV because Mark was watching cartoons. It happened very fast and he wasn’t sure what to do—should he go to the basement with Mark? Before he had a chance to decide, it was over.

You can’t be scared of something when you don’t see it coming. It took us probably an hour to realize how bad the situation was and by then, we were already figuring out how to deal with it.

That’s only our experience, people who were hit directly must have been terrified.

Well, that was a great reminder of how fast everything can change when you least expect it.

Hydro Ottawa at work
Damaged tree after the tornadoes in our street
Empty shelves in supermarkets
Empty shelves in supermarkets (this was supposed to be bread!)
Empty shelves in supermarkets
Empty shelves in supermarkets
Empty shelves in supermarkets
Fundraising for those affected by the tornadoes
Fundraising for those affected by the tornadoes
Mark’s story of the power outage

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