Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A flooded city: Some notes from a rain-soaked Toronto

Yesterday, July 8, 2013 will be long remembered here in Toronto.  It was the wettest day in the history of our city.  We had a month's rain in a single day -126 millimetres (4.96 inches) recorded at Pearson Airport - more than we had when Hurricane Hazel struck in October of 1954.  In the grand scheme of things, however, it was not an epic disaster.  Yes, there was property damage and people were hugely inconvenienced.  Yes, it was extremely difficult for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled.  It was definitely costly.  There was, however, no loss of life.

Nevertheless, Toronto's transit system, the TTC, was in utter chaos. Street lights and traffic lights were out.  Commuters were stranded, unable to get a bus when the subway shut down.  Thousands of people, including myself, went without electricity for a long time.

A Go Train, bound for Richmond Hill, Ontario, was trapped in Toronto by the flooded waters of the Don River.  About 1,400 passengers were stranded on the train as a snake swam through the seats.  They waited anxiously for over four hours while the water level increased.  Finally, a marine rescue crew took them out on dinghies and brought them to safety.

Torontonians came together during this time of adversity.  It was, however, just a small taste of what some cities and countries have had to endure.  For that, I am extremely grateful.  If we don't act soon, we will be tasting more disaster in the future.

* Climate change is real and undeniable.  It is ironic that the two of the most significant cities in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's life have just experienced flooding.  Toronto, the city of Harper's birth, and Calgary, his adopted city, have been flooded recently by torrential rain.  The flooding in Cowtown was exceedingly worse and occurred prior to the Calgary Stampede.  Although the Stampede itself was not cancelled, some of the events were cancelled and others were moved to different venues.  Led by their impressive mayor, Naheed Nenshi, Calgarians displayed their grittiness and rose to the challenge.

* The Calgary floods happened in Harper's own back yard.  Yet, the prime minister's mindset will not be changed.  He will continue to relax environmental regulations.  Unfortunately, under the Harper government, Canada's environmental record has become shameful and reducing green house gases remains near the bottom of its list of priorities.

The world has been warned and warned and warned!  In 2012, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in its 2012 report that the increase in global temperature would cause and increase in brief but powerful rains, droughts, hurricanes and heat weaves.  Here is a chronology of some occurrences  during May and June of 2013.


June 2013 - The month of the flood

Storms and floods hit France.  Vineyards in the Loire Valley and in the southwest were severely damaged.  The pilgrimage town of Lourdes was flooded.  Hotels were terribly damaged and some will not be able to reopen for months.  St. Pie X, an underground church, was flooded and covered with 30 to 40 centimetres (11.8 to 15.7 inches) of mud.  St. Bernadette's grotto was closed.

According to Reuters news service, floods forced tens of thousands of people in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic and Hungary to evacuate their homes. Reuters reported that at least 12 people died as a result of the flooding.   In the Hungarian capital of Budapest, the Danube River peaked at record levels but receded without deluging the city.  In eastern Germany, thousands fled their homes after a dam burst on the River Elbe.

May 2013 - the month of the tornado

From May 18 to the 21st, there was an outbreak of tornadoes in the United States.  Tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa Missouri and Illinois.  A massive tornado touched down on Oklahoma and there was serious damage in rural areas of Metropolitan Oklahoma City.  The monster EF5 category tornado heaped destruction and 24 people lost their lives, including 10 children.  Particularly hard hit was Moore, Oklahoma where entire subdivisions were destroyed and two elementary schools were struck while classes were going on.

Unfortunately, none of this will do much to change the minds of climate change deniers.

- Joanne