Speaking out - Dr. Marina Sexton
The power went out around 9:30. I had just gotten back from treating a patient at my office for a post-surgical bleed.
My normal three minute drive to the Inn had taken 15 minutes because I was trying to drive through a blowing wall of white.
Would I even see the entrance to the Inn? The hospital lights gave me the clue I needed and I was home safe.
My dog, Jesse, was with me. I had taken him to the office because I couldn’t leave him alone with this wind. As soon as he got in he went straight to the shower stall and lay in there.
He prefers the bathtub (I guess he read the Tornado Guide) but this was available so there he stayed.
I sat for a while playing Scrabble on my iPad. When the emergency lighting died I decided to go on to bed. I would get another flashlight to make it easier to read my book. I opened the door to Vince’s inner sanctum and felt a draft.
I looked through the bedroom area into his office and saw snow and papers swirling around. There was a layer of snow on his desk, covering stacks of paper. He had instructed me not to disturb them — this was his organized chaos but now it was just chaos.
The casement window had blown open, the wind was waving it about and had pulled a couple of screws from a metal strip in the window frame.
How long it had been open I had no idea. I threw a towel over the remaining papers on the desk and knelt on them to reach the window.
The mechanism was damaged so I needed to find something to try and hook the edge and pull it in.
I tried a coat hanger with no luck. Maybe I could lasso it somehow.
With my flashlight I searched out wire, cable even a bloody necktie but nothing would work. With my fingertips near frostbitten and getting satched from the snow and wind swirling around me and my efforts, I told the wind it could have the window. I had to figure out how to close this hole.
I had been down to the basement a dozen times in search of Vince’s toolbox or anything I could find to close the window and now to close the hole. The only tools I had found were a screwdriver, a Vise-Grip and a stapler (not the gun unfortunately).
I was stapling large garbage bags around the window frame when one big gust took the window and slammed it against the other window.
Shite! Or something like that.
Now I knew I had to get the window out of the frame before I had broken glass.
I took the screwdriver and started the slow job of trying to pry the screws (wrong head to unscrew them) out of the levers that allowed the window to open and close.
With the flashlight in my mouth and using all my strength I pried away stopping when my jaw would start to ache as my temporomandibular joint (a part of the jaw) went into spasm.
I would have to stop and massage my jaw to ease it.
I have to admit that more than once I burst into tears at my situation. I can’t do this anymore. I cried but then I would sternly tell myself to suck it up princess, you have a hole in the side of the building and some serious wind happening.
I had to watch that the wind didn’t take the window and jam my fingers. I was also working in fear that I would lose control of it and it would slam back at me, hit the flashlight in my mouth sending glass all over my face.
With the last screw ready to let go I had to time it so that post gust I could catch it, turn it sideways and pull it back into the building. Finally done and no broken glass just a big hole to close off.
I found on one of my forays to the basement a piece of board cut almost to size, it must have been used when the kitchen window broke last year in that bad wind storm.
I had no way to attach it to the window so I tore a piece of the rubber matting I had unsuccessfully tried earlier to stuff in the hole and used it to wedge the board, hammering it in place with the Vise-grip.
I then got the thingy that Vince uses to chop ice on the walkways.
I put the edge up against the board and wedged the handle. I had done it!
I changed into dry clothes, poured myself a stiff drink and sat up for another hour while the wind roared and timbers shook just to be sure it would hold.
At 2:30 a.m. I went to bed exhausted. I awoke the next morning feeling like I had been beaten up with a baseball bat, still no power or telephone or cell service.
As I drove down to check on my house and office, I joined the damage inspection parade of cars and trucks that wound their way around Norris Point.
Shingles gone, siding and pieces of roof off, greenhouses and sheds in tatters, everyone marveled at the strength of the wind and agreed it was the worst ever. Winds had been clocked at well over 200 km/h.
The cleanup started and residents had to secure damaged areas because more wind was forecast for that night — neighbours helped neighbours. The stories of what some had been through were shared. A friend whose husband, like mine, was out of town had debris hit her window with such force it embedded glass into the wall opposite.
She searched for something to close off the window and brilliantly decided to unscrew her laundry cupboard doors and screw them into the window frame, by hand. It’s amazing what harnessing adrenalin can help you do.
With the weather weirding that is happening these days I fear we could be in for more of the same. I’m going to take emergency preparedness more seriously.
While I was proud of myself the next day, I still can’t forget my near despair at my predicament the night I had to hang out a window in a hurricane force wind.
Still feeling a bit blown away.
Dr. Marina Sexton lives in Norris Point and is a member of The Western Star’s Community Editorial Board