Folks come to visit us during the season (April - October) for a fishing adventure, for a wildlife experience, to paddle in peace, and generally to simply relax. Folks do not come to visit Quatsino in storm season. It is because being as far inside the inlet as we are, while storms blow and fuss they generally have reduced their ferocity by the time they get here having been buffered by the various hills and islands and funneled into many varied directions weakening the attack. Don’t get me wrong, we have storms. Many is the night I have gone down to the dock after midnight to check on things. There is even an evil wind that comes through on a different angle a couple times a year and keeps the entire lodge awake while imitating an airplane attempting to land on the roof.
But for folks wanting to watch storms, go right out to the West Coast because only there do you get the wave action that is both so impressive and so damaging. So it was a missed opportunity for storm watchers this November 17 as 150km/hour+ winds ravaged the area; toppling trees, sinking boats and removing docks indiscriminately. The poor residents who were here for the event to a person stated they had never ever experienced anything as bad as this storm in their lifetimes. Even Harry from Coal Harbour, who many of you have either met or heard of, Harry who is 85, says he cannot remember experiencing anything this bad, ever.
Picture this: in Coal Harbour, where we fuel up the boats and pick up our guests, the entire commercial side the dock has been wrenched off kilter. One metal boat put a very large hole the side of a commercial troller both tied to the gas dock side of the harbour. Other boats in Quatsino tied to the government wharf - a protected dock - had waves 5 feet cresting over the top of them. Many places found the Quatsino road underwater and when the waves receded, impassible with logs and other flotsam (and a goodly amount of jetsam as well). Truly, walking the road this past week, I have never seen so much garbage washed up onto the road and beside it (styrofoam, plastic bottles, planks and various other human debris) amongst the tree limbs, leaves, tree needles, kelp, sticks, logs and trees.
Riding into Quatsino on the mailboat, the Narrows was thick and brown, the colour of coffee with cream. It looked like the Amazon River had come to Quatsino. I wonder what significant changes the river underwent during this incredible wind and rain event? It will be months before I dare to venture up there, Limestone holds water and releases it slowly. It will be high for a long time.
The property next door to ours had their pilings let loose and release their entire dock. This was not good for the two boats that had been tied to that float. Past them the next home’s floating dock was lifted right up and out of the water, firmly planting itself in their lawn. Hydro spent 7 days out here and during that time dealt with over 200 trees as well as fixed multiple downed lines. A property approximately 2 kms closer to the ocean than ours lost the portion of their wharf that provides access from the walkway down connecting to the floating part of the dock - the moving part of their ramp. Gone. Continuing down the road there was a home with huge logs under it as well as past it and up onto the road. That home no longer has the wooden walkways (similar to the one we have going from the lodge to the dock). All gone.
Firmly planted below our dock and just to one side of our float house is half a cedar tree with its head stuck into the mud but its broken end waving about just above the surface of the water. We no longer have a garden in front of our lodge but we do have tons of beach gravel deposited where the garden was. The logs that had lived on that beach for as long as we can remember are now up and past the garden and over the lawn by at least 2 feet. Time to decide if we want to mow less?
The high tide mark is higher than any winter storm I ever have seen. One of the heavy metal chairs on the deck flew from the deck to the beach. I still cannot figure out how that would be possible. We did lose some random items off the dock and the smoke house has seen better days but we were incredibly fortunate. If the wind had come from a different direction things might have been different. It took 3 days to hear from our caretaker as she couldn’t get from her home to ours and there were no phones. Finally she found someone with a cell and data and that is how we got word that the SeaPig was still with us. Yes Virginia, there are people in the world without cell phones.
It will take us a few weeks work to remove the debris but we are very grateful that we were spared the damage of many of the other places.
I have heard that land erosion occurs suddenly, not as we have all been taught slowly and steadily over time. I think it really is true. The major changes seen in our environment here, which include in many places meters of shoreline completely removed, hillsides slipping from severe saturation, trees toppled and ground exposed to both rain and sunlight, rivers vomiting out topsoil and vegetation. It only takes one major storm event to implement huge and permanent change. We are rather minuscule in the face of mother nature.
6.5 days with no power. Hard to imagine isn’t it? One freezer was frozen shut - always a bad thing. It had thawed and refrozen. Most of our freezers were off, thankfully (and I guess some of that stuff could have been tossed at the end of the season). Now that snowy freezer is empty and clean. Probably a better situation…
Yes indeed we are fortunate and very grateful. It is hard to understand the impact of having no power for a week or being stranded when your boat (and dock) washes away. Country life has its benefits but also its pitfalls. But life continues on, summer comes and we forget that winter is coming.