This had to be one of the longest days of my life! I was awake from 1:30 a.m. to 3:45 a.m., sitting in the front seat, watching the wind blow the trees around us and listening to the howling. I just couldn’t sleep through the storm.
Yesterday, Eliza and I went into Fredericton and took a historical tour, had a fun lunch, and did a little window-shopping. (Still cannot find anything we like to buy!) When we got back to the campsite, Dan showed us a note that the campground staff had left, stating that we were to expect high winds that night. Okay, that’s nice of them; we don’t usually get that kind of warning.
That night, we just happened to turn on the news and there it was – Hurricane Arthur, heading our way. What?! A hurricane? Not high winds? To us there is a little bit of a difference! We didn’t have any way to get out of the path; it was that big in our area. We thought our site would be a good one to sit it out. Shows what we know.
So that night when I heard the wind, I just had to watch it. We were on a water site, but there was 50 feet of trees in between the water and us. I thought that would be good, to give us some protection, and thought we’d just have a lazy day reading. Ha.
Waking up later in the morning to heavy rain and strong winds, Dan and I talked about moving sites. The trees around us had root systems that were above ground, and with the water making streams through our site; we could see they were swaying. Dan went out to look around, only to find that there were 2 trees down across our road. Our exit was blocked. I volunteered to walk up to the office and let them know. Probably not my smartest move to walk instead of driving the wrong way, because there were trees down all over and 2 more fell as I walked by. I have never walked so fast!
The campground staff was 3 young kids and they had no advice for what we should do. I had already asked a guy who was out with his chain saw to clear our road, so I told the staff we wanted to move sites. They were fine with it because they were so busy with other campers. I walked around the campground, looking for a site that wasn’t under trees. The water was coming down harder than home, and I was drenched. (We found out later that it rained 8” that day.) I found a couple of possible sites and went back to our site. On the walk back, I counted 13 trees that had fallen since I first went by. The ground crew was busy trying to clear them.
We quickly got everything ready to roll, and went to the entrance area. We left the kids and dogs and drove around looking for a site. The day before, we thought the campground was one of the prettiest we had stayed in – because it was all green grass and trees. Now it all looked dangerous. The staff had recommended some campsites that backed up to trees and were on the grass. There was no way we were going to park there! The trees were swaying almost to the ground and the grass was so sodden, we might not be able to pull our 12 tons out of it again.
We finally found 2 sites, both handicap sites in between two buildings, with two tall old trees on either side. It was the best we could do and the staff was fine that we move there. (It’s not like anyone was coming to camp! Most of the seasonal campers had quickly left when the storm started, leaving their rigs behind.) As we were pulling in, a nice couple asked if they could help me move the site table, and we got it out of the way as Dan quickly backed in. The wind was gusting, the rain was pouring, and Connie and Steve offered much needed help. They were going to hang out in the day shelter nearby, because a tree had fallen on their trailer. Not enough to ruin it, luckily, but it shook them enough to want to be out of it!
The day shelter was the typical old log building, with an antique black stove in the middle. They had wood and started a fire. Their friends Leslie and Greg soon showed up, and we spent a while getting acquainted. I was so grateful for the distraction and friendship. Our rig was swaying in the wind and I wasn’t comfortable being inside it. Dan and the kids were, even without electricity. The power had gone out earlier in the morning, and we knew we wouldn’t be getting it back anytime soon. We didn’t care. We just didn’t want a tree falling on the kids or our only home.
Dan kept trying to get the weather report on our emergency weather radio, but even it wasn’t giving us a report. Connie said their phones were showing that the hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm and they had friends and family trying to contact them. I was hoping that our family wasn’t watching the national news, because we didn’t want them worrying about us. We didn’t have cell service, so we couldn’t contact them, and I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway – we still didn’t know what the outcome would be.
The wind would come and go, picking up chairs and anything else campers left behind. I felt like Dorothy, watching things fly through the air! The trees would bend all the way to the ground, hold, them slowly move back up. Many went down and didn’t come back up. We watched an old one crack and break, falling to the ground and missing a man who had just stepped into his trailer by inches. He had just moved their car out from under the same tree. He was so lucky.
Later that evening, the wind died down a little. I made a quick dinner and then we all settled in to sleep. As much as we could while listening to the storm and watching out every window. The rain was relentless and I don’t know how the power company guys could work in it. They had so many trees down on lines, and when we left the next morning, there was still no power. We saw later in the week that some areas still didn’t have power, and that Fredericton had been one of the areas hardest hit. The quaint little town that Eliza and I had toured lost over 4,000 trees that night.
We woke to a war zone in sunshine and clear blue skies. Trees down, camping stuff blown all over, and people coming out to see the damage. We walked over to our old site, and sure enough, there was a tree down. We would have been under it! The pictures below was our site. So glad we moved.
We went to check out, and the staff said that we’d have a hard time getting out the main road, because there were trees down. Dan took the tow vehicle to check it out and came back to say that if I drove the tow, maybe a I could move a few branches for him and he could get by.
I swear, the man thinks I can move mountains… when I got there, I saw that the three trees were 50’ tall, and filled the road! They had also taken the power line down with them, and I certainly wasn’t messing with a single branch. Dan took the rig off road, and made it by. We got out just in time, too. The traffic started to get backed up because the local seasonal campers were coming in droves to check out the rigs they had left behind. Glad we wouldn’t be there to see people cry over all the damage.
As we drove out of the park, we saw the other local damage. Many of the boat docks had come loose, and the lucky people still had boats above water. Many others were under. Others were down the lake, with some bumping up against the dam. There were tons of people out, trying to figure out what to do. It was hard to believe the devastation we were seeing. We just wanted to get away!
The drive to Prince Edward Island was uneventful. Our area had been the hardest hit from the “tropical storm”, but the Confederation Bridge was open. We were a day late getting to PEI because the bridge had been closed the day before, and we didn’t want to travel into the storm anyway. The bridge is 9 miles long and even on this decent day; you could feel the wind trying to move the RV out of our lane.
It was a beautiful view! Made even more so by the fact that we were at PEI – our easternmost destination and a dream come true. We had talked and planned for this day for so long.
Did you read Anne of Green Gables growing up? I did. Dan just did. Eliza just did. Nate read a few pages. L.M. Montgomery grew up on PEI, and the book and series is set here. It’s become quite a tourist draw for the island. I didn’t care about that part, I just wanted to see the green mountains, the trees, the shore that she described. I could hear Anne’s voice in my head.
I wasn’t disappointed. The hills were covered with trees and fields in such vivid shades of green that if I were a painter, I’d have to use at least a dozen. It was a feast for my eyes and I couldn’t soak it all in fast enough. I couldn’t believe we were actually here. And safe!
Exhausted, we pulled into the KOA at Cornwall and our neighbor helped us squeeze into our site on the water. Yet another kind Canadian. In doing so, because the rig is so big, we blocked his view, but he was very nice about it. (We had a great chat with his family, but I’ve lost their email, so please contact us!)
The KOA sits right on the Northumberland Strait, and had I done my homework better before we booked the site in February, I would have recommended we stay somewhere else… we were on what they call “red sand”, but what was really red clay and it’s what I grew up playing in. The “beach” was the deep, dark red that would never come off your skin or out of any clothing, and there was no way we could walk the dogs on it. I saw later that they sold t-shirts made out of it and I almost bought one for Mom just to remind her of all those Joplin years, but I doubt she needs a reminder of that color of clothing!
Here’s our view; really, nothing to complain about!
There were plenty of other places to walk, however, so we spent the week exploring the island, while enjoying the view from our campsite of the water from above. We had picnics. We visited Montgomery’s cousin’s house, (the setting for the other series of books), the property where her house used to be and what now is a HUGE tourist trap and saw the house she was born in. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I swam on the north side of the island where the Gulf of St. Lawrence is warm and the purple jellyfish were abundant. We ate lobster at Richards, a famous spot that deserves to be. We walked all over Charlottetown and learned the history of their confederation celebration of 150 years. We had ice cream at a dairy bar. We drove and biked and explored until we were full. We were as far as we would ever get from home, 3710 miles. We had worked so hard to get here and I enjoyed every minute. Dreams do come true.