Letter to the Editor:
Preparing for an Extreme Weather Event
Weather patterns have changed considerably within the last few decades with extreme weather events occurring regularly around the world. Regardless of whether one believes that the changing climate is a result of natural patterns, or human driven activities, the changes are evident. The phenomenon was first called “global warming” - then “climate change”. Next came “climate chaos”. Now some writers are saying that these terms hide the reality of a “climate crisis” or “climate emergency”. So what is happening?
Scientists tell us that the overall average temperature of the planet is rising. When increases in temperatures are examined globally, and not just locally, we see some places warmer than normal and some colder. Locally, in 2009 the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources reported that Sioux Lookout’s average temperature had risen 1.2 degrees since 1939 (“Impacts of Climate Change on Northern Ontario Communities Focusing on Municipal Infrastructure and Tourism, 18 May 2009”). Scientists tell us that these unusual patterns create these extreme, often unpredictable weather events – violent hurricanes, tornadoes where never before seen, sudden downpours, flash floods, droughts, excess precipitation and the like.
In the last decade we have seen an increase in wild fires – Slave Lake, Fort McMurray, and this year numerous fires north of Sioux Lookout and Red Lake. While it is difficult to link climate patterns directly to forest fires, the recent unprecedented number of evacuations from the North reminds us of how vulnerable we are to Mother Nature. Floods have plagued Toronto, Thunder Bay, Dryden and Highway 17 near Vermilion Bay. Tornadoes have hit the Kenora District. Power outages and ice storms have caused immeasurable damage. While extreme weather events have always occurred, what used to be 100-year occurrences now occur every 25 years, or even less.
With a taste of the reality of evacuations to Sioux Lookout this year, how can we prepare ourselves if an extreme weather event were to threaten Sioux Lookout?
The strategies are similar for any emergency. First and foremost, keep an emergency kit containing:
2 litres of drinking water for each person in your household;
72 hours supply of non-perishable food that can be eaten uncooked – beans, canned fish, and utensil, including a can opener;
Special needs items such as infant formula, medications, first-aid kit;
Sleeping bags, personal hygiene items;
Flashlight and extra batteries if necessary;
Battery operated radio if that is your only way of receiving news updates;
At least $100 cash in small bills.
The following are also important:
Keep important documents (passports, status cards, birth certificates, health cards, will, passwords etc.) in an easily retrievable place.
Determine an out of town contact on whom you could call for shelter.
IMPORTANT: keep your gas tank at least half full. If you must leave town on short notice, line-ups at stations will be long, or gas may not even be accessible.
Sioux Lookout has an extensive emergency plan. If necessary our emergency personnel will provide information by radio, internet or in person. Be prepared for disasters regardless of their origins.
Cllr Joyce Timpson, Sioux Lookout Municipal Environment Committee