t has finally stopped snowing here in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. Writing this article feels safe to do without worry of jinxing the province in another freakish weather pattern. I am sure many readers do not know of Nova Scotia’s recent weather turmoil. In October of 2003 we suffered a hurricane named Juan, the worst on record for our province. There were people killed, homes and other property items destroyed, and much of our landscapes changed forever. Two of our municipal parks and their landscape was changed back to the same look it had in the 1940’s. Families were without power, water and food for much longer than we were ever used to being without such essential items. People, veritable strangers, came together to help each other. I had two other families living with me for five days until their power was restored and they could return home.
Yes, we knew it was coming, and we had reasonable warning of its intensity and path. How did I prepare? I brought in the patio furniture. It was sad, really, the lack of preparation on the part of many of us. The contingency plans for our residential facilities became vital. We had no generators and, thank goodness, the weather afterwards was nearly tropical. The children and workers in the facilities came together in ways that were very impressive. The shared experience of such devastation created panic and togetherness at the same time. We are still able to witness the tangible impacts upon the landscape of the hurricane six months later — and likely for years to come.
We licked our wounds from Juan and embraced the learning of the experience that nature is always in charge. I live in nature; it does not live in me as I sometimes forget. In February of 2004 the meteorologist on the weather channel informed us of this little storm coming our way bringing with it substantial snowfall. Once again nature was coming by as if to say, "Did you pay attention to me last time I came through?"
On February 17th, 2004, almost 100cm (over three feet) of snow descended in nine hours with winds over 70km per hour. This storm smashed the record set in 1944 with 50cm of snow falling in one day. Once again we were brought to a standstill for a week. Although better prepared this time, there were still many sacrifices made in our residential care facilities. I would like to share with you some of the sacrifices and efforts made by some of the employees of our agency through what has been dubbed "White Juan".
Jason Matthews walked two hours in the storm to get to work for his shift. Rodney Cameron worked straight though from Thursday to Sunday. Matt Aucoin worked 24 hours and was prepared to work alone if no one could make it in, even though his own house had no power risking his pipes breaking. Darrell Nogler walked for over two-and-a-half hours and stayed for 17 hours. Joyce MacDonald, a youth care worker for over twenty years, worked on her days off.. Kim Spinney worked over 40 hours and her colleague Pat Skerry worked over 30 straight hours. Val Blair was scheduled for only eight hours but worked 24 hours straight as did George Farmer. The receptionist Lisa Jo Morin, braved her way in and became the cook. Our maintenance personnel, Tommy Zivanovic, Steve Foran, Brian Scattolon and Andrew Grcic didn’t stop for almost a week. Kevin Willett used his 4x4 Jeep to transport youth care workers to their facilities. Janice Eisnor worked from Wednesday until Friday. Helen Chase, Karen Swaine, Sherri McKend all put in several extra hours. Then there is James Sedgewick who worked from Thursday until Saturday, however the most astonishing tidbit is that he walked at least 16 km (over 10 miles) in the storm to get to work. Tanja Krajcinovic, after working 19 hrs, walked 3 kms home, crawling on all fours for the last 1/3 as the wind kept knocking her over and the snow was up to her waist for most of the journey.
There is not a significant point or underlying relational lesson in this story, rather something simple. The human spirit is always present, notwithstanding moments where it may seem abandoned and empty. Nova Scotia was dealt two devastating record-setting experiences from nature and the human spirit responded with compassion, perseverance and determination. You can have the best contingency plans in the world, but without the human spirit to implement them and bring them to life they are only plans.
The other thing I learned, Mother Nature is always in charge whenever she decides that she wants to be.