Tuesday, 16 July 2013
General Secretary's Weekly Newsletter
July 12, 2013
In any other summer, the flooding and power outages in Toronto this week might have seemed like a big deal. But after the floods in Alberta two weeks ago, and the horrible train derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic over the weekend, our experiences here were nothing more than a summer blip.
Since the storm meant the General Council Office was closed for a day, I might as well tell you a little about what happened.
Seeing dark clouds suddenly looming, I left the office before 5:00 p.m. on Monday to try to get home before the rain came. I didn’t make it. It was one of those downpours that soaks you pretty well instantly. As I crossed the bridge over Mimico Creek, I could see that the water was already rising.
The power in our office went off shortly after that. It went off at my home, too, and left as many as 500,000 households in the dark across the Greater Toronto Area. It was a warm summer night, so having no power didn’t cause much suffering. It’s kind of fun to have an evening with candles and flashlights. Being without the Internet and electronics made us realize how much we rely on those things. It was a good night to read: Johny with a book and a flashlight, and me with an e-reader that, fortunately, was charged up. The evening was not as pleasant for the people stuck in flooded streets, subways, and commuter trains, and for those who went home to flooded basements.
The power in our office building was out all the next day. Like a number of other staff, I went over to the office on Tuesday morning to see what was happening. We had no power, phones, radios, or anything at home but you can always hope that it will be different in a big office building. On the way through the park, I realized that it had been completely flooded the night before. A layer of soft mud blanketed the paved walkway, and branches and clumps of mud littered the grass. The creek was still high, pulling some of the trees on its banks into the water.
A security guard at the back door of our office building announced the building was closed. Unfortunately, some staff found that out only after travelling to work from across town or outside the city. We have learned this week that one of the flaws in our emergency plan is that it involves putting a message on the voicemail at our main telephone number, which isn’t possible when all systems are down!
Various colleagues put messages on Facebook , and texted and phoned each other, but that was not until after many staff had already left for work. When my cellphone started working later in the afternoon, I had a lot of messages from people asking whether the office was open that morning, and when my home phone started functioning on Wednesday afternoon there were more there. Without any means of communication, myself, I wasn’t much help to anyone in the midst of it.
At around suppertime on Tuesday, shortly after our power at home had come back on, four participants from the GO Project , a youth mission and outreach program at Islington United Church, arrived at our house for showers. They were still without power at the church, where they live during the time of the project, and the swimming pool where they normally shower was without power and closed. Newly back on the grid ourselves, we were pleased to be able to share some hot water.
Luckily, everyone was patient and understanding about everything. On Wednesday, back in the office, we shared our adventures getting home Monday, coping with floods or power outages, or coming to work and being turned away. A few colleagues did not have power at home until later on Wednesday, and I think the novelty was wearing thin for them.
I hope those from elsewhere who tried to contact us on Tuesday guessed what was going on! Our IT staff were wonderful getting everything up and running again first thing on Wednesday morning.
After this minor bit of excitement, our prayers continue to be with those who are suffering from true calamities elsewhere in Canada and around the world.