Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not So Funny

My last blog shared many photos taken around my home during the first severe winter blizzard of this season. I shared a few thoughts concerning the magic and wonder of Nature – thoughts that many Canadians have during the winter: Endure it, then shovel it, then enjoy it!!!

I returned home from the library – where I posted my last blog – and Joanne told me that the news was forecasting another blizzard that would be hitting London, the next morning. I groaned. Londoners had spent the last five days digging out from underneath the first storm and I don’t think that anyone had ‘happy’ thoughts thinking about receiving another 30-40 cm of the white stuff.

This winter weather wasn’t so funny anymore!

I woke up early, the next morning - in preparation for shoveling my driveway so I could go to work - and noticed that only a few centimeters of snow had fallen. Yes! The storm had either passed us by or weather conditions had changed so the storm wasn’t created.

Boy! Was I wrong!!

We flipped on the television and were immediately confronted with many devastating video images of what had happened just a few kilometers outside of London.

Freeway #402 had been shut down just after Jo’ and I had gone to bed, the night before. The blizzard that was forecast for London did come, but it struck areas just west of the city. Here’s a link to some of the news videos that were streaming around Canada and the world on this day -

No one was surprised to learn about the many vehicles that ended up in the ditches. This is always expected during a Canadian snowstorm. What was totally surprising was the fact that over 300 vehicles and close to 360 people had been caught in this blast of cold and snow and were stuck on this freeway!!!

We learned that an accident had occurred on the freeway, stopping all traffic. As these hundreds of vehicles waited for the accident to clear the snow kept falling and the winds kept blowing. The accident occurred in the late night and no one was able to come to the call and clear it away. In a matter of minutes all of these waiting cars and people became covered in snow.

On this morning it was reported that these people had been stranded in their vehicles for almost 11 hours! By the end of the rescue efforts some people had spent up to 30 hours trapped inside their vehicles.

A state of emergency was immediately declared and several army helicopters were brought into the area to help with the rescue efforts. These rescue efforts were focussed on the stranded people on the 402, but other people living in the area needed rescuing as well.

The helicopters were used to rescue those in extreme need but their main goal was to do reconnaissance to help the police locate the people in their vehicles.

The police used snowmobiles and other heavy-duty vehicles to get to the stranded victims. Vehicle by vehicle they went in search of survivors who – by this point – had become dehydrated, cold and hungry. Two days later one man’s body was found about 50 feet away from his vehicle. Police suggest that this man went looking for help, became disoriented in the white-out conditions and was quickly overcome by the blasting fury of winter.

Local communities really pulled it together!!!! As survivors were brought back to civilization they were greeted with warm drinks, soups, food, showers, clothing and beds. Some local schools and community centres were quickly converted to safe houses for these people to stay for the few days that it took to clear the freeway and pull all the vehicles out of the ditches.

As I was googling photos and videos to help me create this blog, I came across this really interesting image, taken from a NASA satellite. I added the text and arrows.

Citizens from across Canada watched as this story unfolded. The story started out showing the storm’s devastation, then it focussed on the rescue efforts before concluding with images of all the heroes who had gone so far above and beyond the call of duty to help save lives.

I would like to do the same with this story by sending out a huge and loud ‘THANK YOU’ to the army, the police, the firemen, the tow-truck drivers, the news reporters, the ambulance drivers, the doctors and nurses who worked so hard during this time. Another marvelous ‘THANK YOU’ goes out to all the ‘regular folk’ in these surrounding communities – the moms and dads and children who were the people who set up cots and made warm soups and breads to keep spirits warms and bellies full! They proved that ‘regular’ becomes ‘extraordinary’ during times of crisis and all of these acts of heroism and bravery truly define the what it means to be human.


PS – although this story and my last focussed on happenings in my area, I feel that I should also send out ‘THANKS’ to all the other Canadian heroes who have also been saving lives and helping people in need throughout all of Canada, during the last week.

Along with reports on the blizzards of Southern Ontario, I have also been watching news videos dealing with the many floods occurring throughout British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Some small communities have been completely devastated, as floodwaters have risen to unprecedented heights, destroying homes, roads and bridges – making rescue efforts almost impossible.

Winter has not yet even begun and I have a feeling it’s going to be a hard one. Let’s all prepare ourselves to be stronger and more caring than ever before so that we will be able to overcome the many obstacles that have not yet shown themselves.




We will get through this – together!!!

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