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There must be an exact measure of snow where your thought process goes from “Oh, not the plow again” to “Thank goodness — it’s a plow.” Whatever that measure is, we crossed it Friday night. We crossed it, buried it, lost it from sight completely.
That’s perspective for you.
And it’s certain that Friday’s record-breaking storm — massive snowfall, hurricane force winds — is going to put a lot of things into perspective.
Watching how the health-care system had to juggle through the storm shutdown was eye-opening. Staff kept on site for shift after shift without relief, ambulances squired into the Health Sciences Centre by individually assigned snow plows, the troubles of finding ways to get prescriptions filled and needed dialysis treatments administered despite a city-wide state of emergency — the list goes on and on and on.
The things we take so easily for granted were suddenly unavailable: electricity in our homes, grocery stores and convenience stores only a short drive away, gas stations, a place to buy firewood. It puts into sharp focus a point that the Red Cross and other relief agencies have made for years, and that few people even pause to consider: if a crisis comes, you have to be ready to be self-sufficient for at least the first 72 hours. Because it’s too early for anything to be arranged; you’re going to be on your own. Food, water, batteries, prescription medications, even cash becomes necessity. And once a disaster appears, it’s too late to plan or to shop. Friday started as an inconvenience, became a winter storm, and in one fell swoop, except for emergency vehicles, the city came to a stop.
But that’s not the only perspective that we saw.
The things we take so easily for granted were suddenly unavailable: electricity in our homes, grocery stores and convenience stores only a short drive away, gas stations, a place to buy firewood.
We also saw neighbours keeping each other informed and helping each other out; shovellers and ride-offers, essential workers willing to strap on snowshoes and backpacks to fight their way in to work to relieve their compatriots. We saw snow crews and electrical crews working to close to their breaking points, firefighters and other emergency workers doing long, hard shifts.
On social media, the trolls took a break, as Facebook and the Twittersphere filled with offers of help for strangers or near-strangers (and sometimes people seeking help, too), of impromptu shovel-parties and of guardian angels shovelling out apartment dwellers whose front doors were blocked behind mountains of snow.
Outside, it was remarkably still on Sunday: little traffic, no wind, the occasional backup alarm from a distant, unseen plow. Even the snow blowers seemed tamed, perhaps because fuel’s running low. The scrape of a shovel, neighbours who might not have shared a word between them for months talking about the wind, the drifts, how tired everyone’s arms are.
A storm for the ages. It was the worst of times.
And somehow, the best of them, too.