The first (and hopefully last) February blizzard of 2024 buried roadways across much of Nova Scotia, and given that the province boasts 28,340 kilometres of public roads, no one could have reasonably expected to be dug out in hurry. After all, the three-day storm that wouldn’t go away dumped as much as 150 centimetres of snow on our heads, stranding people who needed access to medications or a lift to a healthcare facility for dialysis.
In Nova Scotia, fortunately, human nature often steps up when Mother Nature deals us a blow. And so it was in the wake of the big snows earlier this month. In Pictou County, one nurse on a snowmobile made her way to a house in which a vulnerable patient would otherwise have been stranded. In Cape Breton, minor hockey players, proudly wearing their team jerseys, showed up in the streets (shovels in hand) to help people dig out. In the Sydney area, cadets from the Canadian Coast Guard College also formed a shovel brigade to free vulnerable homeowners who might otherwise be trapped in their homes.
Similar stories of compassion-in-action were written in storm-struck areas across the province – and will be told and retold as time passes. That’s as it should be, for the stories we tell ourselves define who we are – in this case, a people who help each other when help is needed. What a welcome contrast our Citizens’ Storm Response provides to the sometimes ugly and accusatory chatter on social media sites, and to the political squabbling over which level of government should have done more to stop the snow from falling or to move it before it hit the ground. (Premier Tim Houston was wise to step back – finally – from critical remarks he made over the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.)
We’ve navigated some rough seas from the CrowsNest and know Mother Nature cannot always be tamed. Engineers tried for decades to control the flow of the Mississippi River, but levies still got breached in New Orleans in 2005, just as tsunamis wiped out coastal communities in Thailand (2004) and disabled a nuclear power plant in Japan (2011). Closer to home, earlier this month, even heavy snow-clearing equipment was getting stuck in the house-high drifts the storm created in parts of the province.
In the end, the storm taught us an old lesson – there’s a time to analyze and criticize, and a time to rally together to help each other. Best to do the latter in times of crisis, as Nova Scotians did so movingly in response to the historic snow dump of 2024.