Monday, September 29, 2003

Hurricane Juan - A City Blown Apart

Hurricane Juan made landfall just after midnight on September 29, 2003. I lived on Windmill Road in Dartmouth with my husband Simon at the time, in Harbourshore Acres Apartments which was right on Halifax Harbour.  Our apartment's balcony faced the harbour looking towards Bedford Basin.  This is the view from our balcony on a calm evening:

I was in bed when I was awakened by a phone call from my mother about 1am. She couldn't believe I was sleeping through a hurricane. We went out on the balcony to see the storm. Our balcony was on the lee side of the building but we could see the rain basically going horizontal over the top of the building. The harbour was in major turmoil. We could see power transformers blowing all over the city. Soon the city was dark.  The wind made the most incredible roar I've ever heard.  

About an hour into the storm I was talking to my mother on the phone again when there was a huge crash out in the hallway. The fire alarms started going off as well, and we could hear panicked voices out in the hallway. I opened the door and discovered the roof had caved in at the end of the hallway.

Our neighbour told us to get out quickly. Water pipes had broken and water was flowing down the hall into our apartment. I couldn't find the cat carrier so I put the cats in a clothes basket.  Tico, our Alexandrine Parakeet, had to stay behind as her cage was too big to take with us.  We made sure she had plenty of food and water, and then we headed for the garage where our car was. 

Out in the hallway, our neighbour Marg was standing there holding her cat saying she didn't know what to do as she had no car and nowhere to go.  I told her to come with us, and she could come to my mother's with us until she could get in contact with her daughter and figure out where she was going to stay.

We were on the third floor, so we all went down to the second floor to get to the garage since our hallway was blocked. As I was nearing the garage, water was pouring on top of my head and I was in water up to my ankles. We made it to the garage and discovered that the door would not open because the power was out. A couple of guys broke the chain on the garage door and forced it open. We left, heading for my mother's which was on the other side of Bedford Basin, about a 15-minute drive away. The drive to her house was scary to say the least. We had to dodge fallen down trees and broken power lines. Debris was flying through the air and landing in front of our car. A full-sized tree blew in front our our path as well. The city was in complete darkness. We finally reached my mother's and were safe.

The following day I ventured out and explored the city to see the damage. It was unbelieveable. Trains were tossed off their tracks. Roofs were blown off of houses. Trees were blown down, some on top of houses and cars. Boats were tossed from the harbour up onto people's lawns and some were sunk.

We returned to our building to see if we could get in and to check out the damage in daylight.  This is the front lawn of our apartment building.  All of the trees were blown forward.

Here is where the major damage occurred.

This is our apartment.  We could hear Tico in there screeching away from inside.  However we were not allowed to enter the building yet as they had to make sure it was safe.

The following group of pics were all taken on or nearby Windmill Road.

This was flooding on the Bedford Highway.

This is the Halifax Ferry Terminal.  The windows were blown out.

South Street clean up.

A lot of trees fell in the Old Burying Ground at the corner of Spring Garden Rd. and Barrington St.  The Old Burying Ground is the oldest cemetery in Halifax.  It became a cemetery in 1749, the same year that Halifax was founded.  Many of Halifax's earliest settlers are buried here, and it was used for about 100 years.

The Public Gardens didn't escape the storm's wrath either.  The Gardens remained closed to the public until July 1, 2004.

The image below is the Army doing clean-up in Camp Hill Cemetery.  Some Wikipedia info about Camp Hill Cemetery:

"As a cemetery in the provincial capital, Camp Hill became the final resting place for many of Nova Scotia's elite. Officials did allow for the burial of black Canadians, albeit in a segregated section of the cemetery. In the 1990s it was pointed out that the graves of African-Canadian veterans of World War I, unlike other white Canadian veterans, were marked by nothing more than flat white stones. This situation has since been rectified by the federal department of Veterans Affairs.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the war graves of 10 service personnel of World War I and over 80 of World War II.

There are also 17 graves of Norwegian sailors, soldiers and merchant seamen in Camp Hill Cemetery who died in Nova Scotia during World War II. These men were at sea when Germany invaded Norway in 1940. The King and government of Norway ordered the more than 1,000 ships at sea to go to allied ports."

The next image is also in front of Camp Hill Cemetery.  It is actually directly across the street from Camp Hill Hospital.  A paramedic lost his life here when a tree fell on his ambulance.

The next couple of images are from South End Halifax.

The following images are taken in North End Halifax, and shows the backyard of my grandmother's house on Merson Avenue.  For the first image I was standing in her neighbour's backyard.

For this image I am standing in my grandmother's backyard, shooting towards her other neighbour's house on the opposite side.

What do people do after a big weather event?  Go to Tim Horton's of course!  I think this was the only Tim Hortons for miles that had power.  The line up went all the way down Lady Hammond Road.

After visiting my grandmother we decided to drive back to our apartment building and see if we could get in. Security guards were there preventing anyone from going in, mainly to prevent people from looting.  There is also significant structural damage to the building and for safety reasons that part of the building was off-limits to everyone.  Once we showed ID to prove our address, a security guard escorted us to our apartment so we could collect some things and our bird, Tico.

Below is a view of the collapsed part of the building.  Our apartment only sustained water damage, but the whole wing was condemned because of the damage and had to be rebuilt. Unfortunately we had to find a new place to live because it was going to take many months to rebuild that wing of the building.

Below are some images around our neighbourhood:

This is Kelly's Deli on Wyse Road, which used to be a Harvey's.

This is the parking attendant booth behind the building where I worked (Portland St.).

Note to Self:  Don't park under huge trees during a hurricane!

We found a new flat to rent in North End Halifax.  We received insurance funds for our water-damaged goods.  This is one hurricane I will NEVER forget.