Friday, January 13, 2012

Closing time

Since Cathy and I moved up here more than six years ago, we've had occasion to miss work through...interesting circumstances. Now, by interesting I don't mean, "we're sick and can't go", because that happens. No, I mean circumstances that seem to shut down chunks of the city. Sometimes all of it.

For example, today we woke up around 6:50 with the phone ringing. Not an unusual circumstance as Cathy is the one people call if staff can't make it to school. She then has to find substitutes. Except this morning she was told the school was closed. No reason given. A quick check on the Iqaluit Public Service Announcements on Facebook offered up the reason why:

NOTICE: City of Iqaluit has shut down the city as a result of a water main break (Inuksuk High School). The pipe break has resulted in the city losing more water than we can currently produce. Significant flood from the broken pipe has also occurred. We ask people to remain at home until further notice. We ask that people conserve water and only use water for emergency purposes. Once the pipe has been fixed (unknown time estimate), the City expects to be able to stabilize the situation and begin producing water and resume normal services. City will update residents when new information is available.

Now, we're not in bad shape because our house is on trucked water, our tank was filled yesterday and we're not hard on water use on any given day. As long as we don't do laundry or use the dishwasher and keep showers to a minimum, I suspect we could hold out a week or more in an emergency. I've joked on Twitter that I'm going to start selling off time in our showers in five minute blocks. No takers....yet.

Oh yes, and it's Friday the 13th.

However, a massive water main break does not top the list of odd reasons why things close in Iqaluit. And now, counting down, the weirdest reasons most or all of the city has closed since 2005.

Honourable Mention: Although it was only the post office, and not the entire city, it must be mentioned the chemical spill that closed the place for a day. A package broke open during transit, producing a liquid that caused staff handling the package to feel a burning sensation when breathing and their eyes watering. Staff were sent to hospital and the fire department was called in to examine the package.

Turn out it was a bottle of rice vinegar that had broken. Staff spent months living that one down.

7. Blizzard - Not all that weird, really. And despite where we live, blizzards don't happen all that often. There have been times when the schools have closed and we've looked around and decided they've closed because of the ennui. It happens.

6. Extreme Wind Chill - They won't close the city, but they will close the schools when this happens. In previous years the schools would only close if the wind chill hit -55C. Tell that to your kids when they complain it's too cold to go to school. This year they've "increased" the temperature to only -50C. Schools haven't closed yet, but they've flirted with it. Several days in the last week where the temperatures were around -48C.

5. Busted water main - See above. Also see here, here and here for pictures. CBC's story here and Nunatsiaq's here.

4. Wandering gunman - Has actually happened a couple of times in Iqaluit, although it tends to happen more often in smaller communities. In the communities, everyone hunkers down and stays home. In Iqaluit, they'll just close off large sections of the city.

3. Exploding generators - The City of Iqaluit is powered, if memory serves, by seven generators. So last year, one of those generators was down for repairs and then another one, the most important one, also stopped working. Just in more dramatic fashion. So large chunks of the city were without power. And the power corp was given estimates in days before full power could be restored. So we had rotating power through most of the city. Four hours on, four hours off.

Fortunately, they were able to restore the one down for repairs later that evening and as long as people conserved power, they were able to eke through until the main generator was fixed, several days later.

2. Massive telecommunications failure - There's no fibre optic cable going into Nunavut. So when a satellite a couple of hundred kilometres above the earth decided to have a little hissy fit, Iqaluit residents got a taste of how quickly things can get weird. And be totally out of your control.

With no phone, cell phone or internet, a lot of government offices shut down. Banks closed. Store could only do cash transactions. Interac and credit cards would no longer work. The airport effectively shut down because they used the satellite to communicate with planes (it was argued that was an over-reaction, but few aircraft landed that day, and none of the jets coming from the south). So yes, a jolly bit of madness all the way around.

Again, there was talk that this could last for days, but the managed to get the satellite repaired in about 24 hours. Which was good for me because I had a flight scheduled to visit family in Newfoundland the day satellite service was restored. And because satellite was down, I had no way of communicating with them if I didn't get the flight. SO they would have been very confused waiting for me at the airport.

1. Dump fire - They say the dump is always on fire, to some degree. Well, in the fall of 2010, the degree to which the dump was on fire increased significantly. It increased to the point where there was not only smoke, but quite a lot of fire which could be seen easily from almost anywhere in town.

Which is lovely and all, and most of the time the prevailing wind blew the smoke away from town. But a couple of times the wind blew the smoke into town. To say the smell was unpleasant would be an understatement. But then people had problems breathing. So then the schools closed. And then others complained of breathing problems and that was that. Most offices around town closed and people went home. Except, of course, you could still smell the dump fire just about anywhere in town. Even with our doors and windows closed, and not being in direct line when the smoke blew into town, we could still smell it.

So that was a fun few days. The dump fire eventually died, although I guess it's still probably still simmering away...

And there you have it. What strange new things will happen to close the city? Stay tuned....

Last Five
1. Gatekeeper - Feist
2. The vanishing breed - Robbie Robertson
3. Someday - Tegan & Sara
4. All my own stunts - Arctic Monkeys
5. A hard day's night - The Beatles


Mandy Poole said...

That sounds similar to where I used to live (South coast of Labrador, St. Lewis) the town actually ran out of gas, roads were closed, no planes were flying, and it was difficult to get to the pump house for water (no running water in most of town). And this all happened over Christmas holidays while I was there, haha.

Way Way Up said...

Hopefully all the resulting from all that water melting doesn't do any major damage.

SRD said...

you better hope the forecasts for sunspots (which play havoc with satellites) don't come true. hope they still have some old-fashioned s-w radio sets!