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6 Lessons Learned from an Arctic Blizzard

Image Copyright All rights reserved by Pat Kane Photo

On January 7, 2014, Iqaluit, Nunavut experienced one of the worst blizzards in years. Winds gusted to over 87 mph, with sustained speeds of 69 mph – the same as that of a Category 1 hurricane. According to Mayor John Graham, he had “never seen winds like that, ever” in his 39 years of living in our remote subarctic town. The winds caused massive power outages across town, as well as damage to homes and buildings. In my neighborhood, we were without power for over 13 hours, meaning no Internet, intermittent cell service (if any at all), and no hot water or heat. The storm was a doozy, but we survived it. And, as they say, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Here are 6 lessons learned from the blizzard of January 7th:

1. Twitter Saves the Day.

Throughout the storm, Iqaluit residents reached out to each other and the outside world 140 characters at a time. Even the local power corporation used Twitter to disseminate information related to outages and restoration. Especially after cell phone service was lost, the role of Twitter during the blizzard was so strong that it prompted our mayor to say, “Thank goodness for Twitter. I’m going to learn how to use that.”

2. The 1970s Called: You Need POT.

POT being “plain old telephones”, the only reliable communication device during the city-wide power outage: emergency crews dug out and plugged in their rotary phones to coordinate their rescue and repair operations after cell phone service was lost.

3. Blizzards Blow.

Hard. Check out the time-lapse video below, made by Taha Tabish and Brigitte “Bibi” Bilodeau of the incoming storm. That’s what snow blowing at 69 mph looks like.

4. Blizzards are Ageless.

This was supposed to be almost as bad as the blizzard of 1997. It ended up being worse. Some say it was the worst storm in over 14 years; others say 39. Whatever the time span, it’s clear that blizzards are hard to compare and, more importantly, hard to predict.

5. One Should Always Charge One’s Toothbrush.

Because electric toothbrushes make awful manual brushes. Trust me, or read my Diary of an Iqaluit Blizzard to decide for yourself. If possible, it’s best to keep all your electronic devices (ie. laptops, phones, cameras) charging in case of a potential (read: eventual) power outages, in order to stave off boredom and/or maintain your sanity.

6. Northerners Are Either Bad-Ass or Crazy (Perhaps Both).

As stated in this article, “Whatever your winter hard luck story is, this year, we’re pretty sure Iqaluit just beat you fair and square”. Of course, they were referring to the high winds, the zero visibility, the lack of power; but they were also responding to this video of an unknown man, nicknamed “Iqaluit Blizzard Walker”, who was caught walking, upright, straight ahead through the blizzard. Warning: Do not attempt at home. Everyone assumes (correctly) that Arctic living is unique, and the blizzard of January 7th is just one example of that. Life in Canada’s north presents you into a series of challenges, and after each one you are left with a sense of awe, struck by the power of the environment, the people, and yourself. So, to the next epic blizzard I say: Bring it on.

Anubha Momin
Anubha is the creator of Finding True North, an award-winning blog about life in Iqaluit, Nunavut, a remote town of 8,000 people in the Canadian Arctic, where she lived for the last four and a half years. Since she started Finding True North, which garners 10,000+ unique visitors per month, Anubha has transitioned from writing to film and television jobs, working on- and off-screen on various projects with The CBC, VICE, and Netflix. Anubha's words and photos have appeared in VICE, The Huffington Post, The CBC, Canadian Geographic, Up Here Magazine, Briarpatch, Chatelaine, and more. She was named one of 50 Outstanding Canadians by the Huffington Post in 2016, joined The Walrus Talks national tour as a speaker this year, and is a member of the Polaris Prize Jury. Anubha currently works as an Associate Producer at VICE.

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