Getting ready for the storm: emergency preparedness

Honey-locust leaves on the porch

I have made a habit of pre-writing all my blog posts. By the time this one appears tomorrow we may be in the midst of the what is left of Hurricane Sandy. The storm is expected to entend into Ontario and Quebec at decreased intensity. One forecast indicated we could expect sustained winds close to 90 kph to reach the Toronto area around 3 am. Our house is on top of a hill so we are not worried about flooding, but there is a considerable threat of power outages. Now seems a better time to post than tomorrow.

The theme of emergency preparedness has been coming up more frequently. Many people consider exceptional weather like Hurricane Sandy to be an effect of climate change. It would be difficult to prove this, because some recent severe weather is related to the naturally occurring Southern Oscillation in surface temperature across the eastern Pacific Ocean, also known as El Niño/La Niña. Nevertheless, climate global warming unquestionably causes more severe precipitation events around the world.

I have never taken emergency preparedness very seriously. This part of Ontario is largely immune to severe earthquakes. The Government of Canada’s Get Prepared website does not even list hurricanes as a threat, even though Hurricane Hazel killed 81 people here in 1954. However, this part of the province is prone to tornadoes and severe winter storms. No doubt we should expect more in future.

We also need to be more mindful of weather on the sun. A severe solar flare could deal a devastating blow to power grids on Earth, rendering useless much of the technology we have come to depend on for our way of life. Power interruptions could last several weeks. As yet, most cities only have enough emergency supplies to last for a few days.

That leaves preparedness for extreme events in the hands of individuals. Today is the first time I ever bothered to prepare for a threat. We went to Canadian Tire and picked up a case of bottled water, three propane cylinders for our camp stove and a new first aid kit. I do not know whether we have the right food stored to last through a 72-hour power outage, but at least it is a start. Maybe I am just getting older and do not feel invincible anymore.

Wherever you are, stay safe.

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