Janice Wells: Surviving the un-hurricane

Published on March 18, 2017

OK, so technically it wasn’t a hurricane, but tell that to the St. John’s homeowners who looked outside after last weekend’s windstorm and saw a 200-year-old chestnut tree toppled down, held up only by a few wires.

©Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

This is me channeling my inner Buddy Wassisname and the Other Fella: ‘B’y that was some starm we had last week” “Starm! B’y’ that was a hurricane.” “No b’y, it wasn’t a hurricane.” “Don’t try to tell me b’y. It was a hurricane out our way.” ‘No b’y, it wasn’t, because a hurricane is barn in the tropics.” “I don’t care where it was barn b’y, it was wonderful bad.” “Yes b’y it was some shockin’ bad. In fact, if you’d a asked me, I’d a said it was a hurricane.”

I’m so glad we didn’t have a hurricane last weekend. We had “very high winds.” In fairness to the weather forecasters, they did tell us just how high the winds could be, but most people didn’t really get it and expected to go about their business as usual.

How no one was killed or there weren’t more personal injuries is only by the grace of God or fluke.

What is wrong with us Canadians? Are we so tuned into Americanisms that we can’t come up with our own definitions?

Winds have to be 119 km an hour in order for a system formed in the tropics to be declared a hurricane. They give them names.

Our nameless weather event, formed I’m not sure where, had winds of some 50 km more than that. The winds were as strong as a Category Two hurricane which will cause “damage to roofing, door and window damage to buildings; considerable damage to shrubbery and trees, mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers.”

Whether you call a pier a wharf or a stage or a berth, you’d think that as a race of seafaring people (with our own dictionary for god’s sake) we’d have a word that would alert us immediately for winds strong enough to destroy or severely damage one.

I heard one of our weathermen explain, after the fact, that they couldn’t call it a hurricane because of the ‘not forming in the tropics’ thing. To borrow from Shakespeare, a hurricane by any other name will be as dangerous, so this business about semantics is ridiculous. If your professionalism won’t allow you to use the wrong word, which I do understand, then your profession should come up with a right word.

I’m not going to try and suggest anything. I’m not very good at it so I’ll leave that to Ryan and Eddie. Those guys obviously can’t depend on the world of meteorology to appreciate that we need and deserve something more than a south of the border comparison to warn us about unsafe wind conditions, so they should get together and come up with a word that we will all understand to be as serious as “hurricane,” and submit it to the weather terminology police, whoever they are, for official status.

I knew how dangerous our non-hurricane could be. I’d like to say it was purely because of my highly developed common sense, but in truth it was recent experience.

A few weeks ago, when we weren’t having “hurricane force winds,” just a “with winds occasionally gusting higher than normal” day, I opened my car door just at the wrong second and a gust of wind tore it out of my hand, missing me by a hair.

I was so shook up at barely escaping being smashed in the face and body by a car door with, dare I say it, almost, if not, hurricane force, that as soon as I heard the wind forecast last week I stocked up on essentials and beseeched Daughter #2 not to bring Grandson in for his usual Saturday visit..

Like many, I don’t think she was too concerned on Friday by the forecast, but it didn’t take long Saturday before she knew that Mom was right. Again. Ha ha.

But sure I can’t be warning everyone now can I? We need better communication language from our weather gurus.

When the wind is blowing you into oncoming traffic do you really care if it began in the tropics or not?



Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at