Weather

THE IMPERFECT STORM

In the U.S., Hurricane Isabel left a trail of grief as it came ashore

CHARLIE GILLIS September 29 2003
Weather

THE IMPERFECT STORM

In the U.S., Hurricane Isabel left a trail of grief as it came ashore

CHARLIE GILLIS September 29 2003

THE IMPERFECT STORM

Weather

A HARD HIT, BUT CANADA GOT A BREAK

In the U.S., Hurricane Isabel left a trail of grief as it came ashore

FOR ONCE, nature gave Canada a break. Hurricane Isabel, the terrible beauty who battered the U.S. East Coast last week, broke up before she spun into Ontario, where she still unleashed heavy, warm rains and high winds from Windsor to Kingston. By then, she had already left a trail of grief—at least 23 Americans dead, 5.5 million without power, and scores of city streets flooded. In Virginia alone, six people died in weatherrelated traffic accidents, while on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, roofs were torn from houses and garages.

What had once been a Category 5 hurricane petered out to a tropical storm as it swept north through Virginia and Pennsyl-

vania. But when it reached the Canada-U.S. border, its 75 km/h winds were still strong enough to topple a few trees, knocking out power to an estimated 14,000 homes in Whitby, Hamilton, Toronto and beyond. The damage paled next to that wrought by Hurricane Hazel, which struck the region in 1954. That year, 81 Torontonians were killed,

while many were forced from their homes by flooding.

This time, Ontarians treated the storm as a kind of adventuremuch as they did the mid-August blackout. People showed up for work soaked to the skin, but smiling. Homeowners scrambled to clear out their eavestroughs. A few brave souls actually ventured out to windsurf on Lake Ontario. Isabel looked positively benign next to the summer’s other scourges: British Columbians watched their homes burn, Prairie farmers were beset by grasshoppers, and Quebecers endured flash floods. They may well laugh at Toronto, where leaders were planning emergency measures as the storm approached. At least no one called in the military. And as nature makes 2003 feel increasingly like Canada’s own annus horribilis, we can all use a break from the bad news. CHARLIE GILLIS