14 Days

I opened up the online edition of the Fort McMurray Today this morning and read the urging from Bob Couture, director of emergency management, that self sufficiency was key for those of us planning to return to the community to stay.

"Bring enough food and water for 14 days," he stressed.

A photo popped up yesterday of our local grocery story and its empty produce section, the caption suggesting that it was ready for re-stocking and the return of citizens.  I think that based on the admonition of the municipality about coming back loaded with supplies, that I'm going to hope for a meagre local supply but prepare for absolutely nothing being available.

My brain is transitioning from evacuation mode to what it is going to be like to open our door for the first time.  As I was going to sleep last night, I went on a mental tour of our house: the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and study.  It felt closer to being real than at any other time on this incredible adventure.

Looking at the air quality monitor (www.wbea.org) - almost as often as I check the oil price ($48.96 right now) - smoke still lingers in our community, depending on the wind and the ferocity of "The Beast", which is now north of 566,000 hectares.

We've seen a lot of graphics illustrating how that size would compare to various metro areas in Canada and the U.S.  Yesterday, driving on Stony Trail, it struck me that at interesting graphic would be to overlay the number of homes destroyed with various neighbourhoods in major centres like Edmonton and Calgary.  What would that kind of loss look like in the Hawkwood neighbourhood of Calgary, for instance?

I actually looked it up.  They have just over 3,000 homes in this wonderful area.  Over two-thirds of it would be gone if we imposed the scale of devastation seen in Fort McMurray.  That is disturbing to picture, but it helps to understand why this truly is one of the largest disasters in our nation's history.  My home town of Kamsack, Saskatchewan would be completely lost.

I am going to stay back in Fort McMurray when Heather and I return next week.  She will return south once we retrieve her car from the kind folks at CNRL who helped her evacuate with our two sons.  They will only return when I'm able to confirm that service levels and air quality have improved to a state that will make things palatable for permanent resettlement.  I'm going to spend the next few days making a shopping list of the supplies I will need to survive for two full weeks.  To be honest, I'm probably going to find an Ideal Protein supplier in Calgary or Edmonton and set myself up for a 14-day program.  It will greatly simplify my needs.

We will begin the long drive north at first light on June 1st.  It will be an important and therapeutic journey, retracing the trip I took in those harrowing days as 88,000 people dispersed around the province, across the country, and in some cases, to tropical locations (and unplanned holidays) like Mexico and Las Vegas.


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