Think of it as a reminder. Or maybe a learning opportunity.
Certainly, hurricane Dorian was a lot of other things in the Atlantic region, ranging from just a bit more than a windy day in St. John’s to a full-on assault in Halifax. From New Brunswick to the Annapolis Valley to Prince Edward Island, it was pretty much everything in between — the defining characteristic where you live might have the wind, heavy rain or a storm surge. The amount and intensity of damage was different, sometimes across as little distance as from one city block to the next.
Right now, the focus is on the immediate cleanup: trying to repair an electrical system in Nova Scotia that, at one point, saw four out of every five customers in the province without power. Clearing fallen and damaged trees — picking up the pieces at properties that have been damaged. Dealing with personal losses, some covered by insurance, some, not.
There is certainly lots to be done.
But back to what will come in the months ahead: one of the things that many people don’t realize about a weather emergency is how much time goes into preparing for events like hurricane Dorian.
And not the immediate preparation, either — certainly, getting the right supplies as a hurricane approaches and making the right decisions during the event itself are crucial.
But so is something else: the months of preparation that agencies — from emergency management agencies to utilities — take to make decision about where they’re likely to need to have staff ready and when, and how to handle far more extensive emergencies than Dorian.
Emergency measures organizations across the region will no doubt take the opportunity to debrief on what went right and what went wrong in this past weekend’s response: if there’s one thing that first responders know, it’s that however well-oiled your machine may be, there are always opportunities to do things better.
Municipal governments have an opportunity, too — issues that arise as a result of past infrastructure decisions don’t have to be repeated in the future. Learning from current events means that better, more robust systems can be put in place when replacements are needed.
Utilities will certainly take the opportunity to revisit the storm: electrical utilities have gotten very good at the co-ordinated sharing of resources and equipment, and this past weekend’s experience will let them better prepare as well.
Even weather forecasters — every storm is different, but each one adds another set of variables to the endless puzzle that determines what storms do, how they move and how they grow.
As bad as it was in some places, it could have been far worse — and, in a small way, hurricane Dorian will make for better, more informed decisions next time.
Because there will be a next time.