The City of Toronto was under water last night, with more rain falling in one day than had ever been recorded, including during Hurricane Hazel in 1954. It was wild; almost all of the viaducts under the railway bridges were flooded out, the Don Valley Parkway became part of the Don River. It was no Superstorm Sandy or Calgary Flood, but it was like nothing anyone had seen before.
The city responded well; today the highways are mostly open, the subways and transit systems are mostly running. The Mayor, Rob Ford, lost power at his home and spent the storm in his driveway, in his air conditioned Escalade. That's our role model.
As in New York or Calgary, it raises the question of resilience; how ready are we for conditions that used to be rare, the hundred year storms that now come every decade or so. The storm sewers couldn't handle it, and dumped millions of gallons of sewage into the lake. The electrical system couldn't handle it; The lights are still out in parts of the city and the system is "hanging by a thread" with two substations out due to water damage. In the Globe and Mail, one expert explains:
“The simple analogy is like if you’ve got a highway that you can’t use,” [VP of Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)] Mr. Young said of the damaged transmission stations. By redirecting power around those stations, Mr. Young said, “you’re using side roads” and placing strain on the overall system.
No doubt the Minister in Ottawa will say as he did in Calgary that " the stuff that I've read and commentary from scientists says that there is not a connection between weather events of this nature and broader climate issues." Or, given that it is Toronto, they will say that the place deserved a good flush.
But the fact of the matter is, this surprised everyone, and it may well be the shape of things to come.