For a more personal spin about my experience with 2003’s Hurricane Juan… Here is a little personal write-up of the night of Juan I did for Stewart Young of CBC. The night that Hurricane Juan hit Halifax, CBC called our media transmissions the “lifeline” for Nova Scotians. It sure makes one feel good to know that all our efforts as meteorologists were appreciated in such a basic and heartfelt way. Hope you enjoy!
Transcript of Prepared Notes for an Interview with CBC RadioOne on “The Current – The Last Word” the week after Juan hit.
I am a meteorologist/hurricane specialist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre located in Halifax, NS. The CHC office is co-located with the Maritimes Weather Centre on the 19th floor (top floor) of the Queen Square building down by the Alderney Landing.
The evening of Sunday September 28th I started my shift at 7PM. The entire office was humming with activity from staff and media as we all focused our attention on the approach of Juan.
This is my first year as a hurricane specialist, since moving out here to Halifax from Calgary in January 2003. As a meteorologist with Environment Canada for over 13 years, I have a high interest in severe weather, and have been accustomed to dealing with high stress, high media focus, and emergency situations surrounding severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity on the Prairies. I adore the very nature and chaos of weather, and have always been excited by storms. But the night of Juan was definitely the most exhilarating, terrifying, and fantastic nights of my life (and my career).
The forecasts for Juan were bang-on….very good. As Juan approached Sunday, and we began to feel its effects, the numbers on the screen, and the significance of the radar and satellite data began to hit closer and closer to home. It is one thing to read off winds speeds of 140+ km/h – but another thing completely to feel the building you are in swaying to and fro as a direct result of the very 140+ km/h winds! And the actual magnitude and reality of Juan became increasingly thrust in our faces as the sway of the building became more pronounced, and the walls of windows surrounding us shook and flexed ominously. It is kind of like anticipating the birth of your first child – no matter how well prepared you are, no matter how many books you read, no matter how much practice you do, the magnitude and emotional impact only become reality when you bring that baby home!
Shortly after midnight, it was apparent that for our own safety, we would have to evacuate, and set into motion our evacuation contingency plans. Though the many windows were taped as part of our contingency, it became increasingly apparent that the wind strength would potentially be more than the building could withstand. As I gave my last live broadcast before evacuating, our office manager ensured everyone cleared the office and headed down to the first floor to a safer area.
In the face of amazing personal stress, concerns for the safety of our families, and concerns for the safety of the citizens of Halifax, one of the things I was most impressed by is how well-oiled a team we all were. I have gained an incredible amount of respect for all my fellow colleagues, and the members of the media who stuck it out with us, as a direct result of the experience with Juan. And my admiration for our office manager expanded ten-fold in the face of this crisis – this man never left our sides for a moment, even though he had been at the office for 24 hours straight, with little to no sleep. His concern for his staff was uppermost in his mind. My hat is off to him.
At approximately 245AM, our staff walked back up the 19 floors in the dark to return to our office, and began to deal with the next phase of Juan as it headed across Nova Scotia and into Prince Edward Island. The media lines began ringing off the hook again…and the adrenaline continued to pump for all of us.
Leaving for home the following morning, after the next shift came in to relieve us, was shocking. Seeing the damage in the daylight was a very sobering sight. Arriving home to see some damage to my house, but my family safe, was bitter-sweet relief. My husband was relieved to see me home safe, as was my sister (who was visiting us from Calgary that week). My children seemed un-phased by the whole experience that morning, as they had slept through Juan! The sweet innocence of children!
The remaining week was hectic, as the lack of power and water made life into a “camping at home” adventure for all of us. I know my sister was glad to get home to Calgary and have a hot shower by Tuesday evening!
A week after Juan hit, our power is back on, and life seems to be returning to normal. My fridge is cleaner than is has been since it was brand new – and almost as empty, as the lack of power forced us to toss nearly the entire contents. Our siding is repaired (for now), and we are silently mourning the loss of a beautiful stand of trees between ourselves and our neighbors that gave us some privacy.
My respect and awe for the power of nature and the weather have deepened considerably once again this past week. But even as I sit here, I must admit that I already feel tingles of excitement once again as I monitor the progress of Hurricane Kate out in the Atlantic. Meteorologists love a good storm, and that will ensure that we keep bringing the public the best most accurate information we can for a long time to come.