Climatologists have been warning us for years to expect wilder swings in temperature and unpredictable weather events as climate change takes the reins. It’s still hard to believe we went from ice storm-imposed school closures to pulling sandals out of storage as the mercury climbed into late-June levels in the span of a little more than a week. The sun was nice, but to be honest, it felt a little ominous.
One thing that is certain is that we will need to be more prepared going forward to handle the aftermath of extreme weather episodes. This most recent ice storm is a good example. The main hydro infrastructure throughout the province did not collapse under the weight of accumulating freezing rain; the service interruptions that lasted throughout the Easter weekend for some area homes were caused by tree branches falling on wires and damaging equipment. In Hinchinbrooke, a single branch coming down on the wires cost syrup producers along that line thousands of dollars as they were unable to process the flowing sap.
Our community responded as it always does to adversity, with overflowing generosity and kindness, but it was clear there was no plan in place. Municipalities rushed to test generators in order to open their town halls as refuges for citizens to warm up and charge their devices. Local organizations, including the Legions in Huntingdon and Ormstown, offered hot coffee and snacks to residents without electricity. But we need more coordination, as these types of events are expected to increase.
Farmers will also have to adapt to protect their fields, as experts predict that spring precipitation will become more abundant, leading to soil and nutrient losses – and that’s if it doesn’t flood. Preliminary forecasts are suggesting a warmer-than-normal summer for much of Canada, where Quebec may see scorching temperatures and unusually dry conditions.
Improving our preparedness will also mean coming together as a community, to put safeguards in place that will help us adapt to the new reality of climate instability. With Earth Day fast approaching, there is no better time than now to start that conversation.