If there was ever a time when I needed four days off, it was this past weekend after one of my hairier weeks on the job at the paper.
Last week’s Battlefords Storm of the Century – or should I say, the latest Battlefords Storm of the Century – is the topic of my column.
I was already planning to do a column about storms, with tornado season in full swing and local Saskatchewan storm chasers like Greg Johnson looking for funnel clouds to observe.
I’ve been tuning in to Johnson’s live feeds of storm chases on the Internet, which have been more than a little interesting to me since I’m also sort of known in the office as the weather nut, looking out for possible storms all the time.
There is a big difference between Greg Johnson and myself, though. In his case, he’s a Storm Chaser. In my case, I don’t need to chase any storms. The storms come to me.
That was exactly the case during my vacation to North Dakota and Minnesota in 2010 when I was chased by storms the whole trip back and forth from Minneapolis. It was also the case last Monday, when I spent my night doing what I usually do on a Monday – trying to stay awake at a city council meeting.
Attending meetings is part of my job. Usually they’re pretty dull, and I will admit there are times I would much rather be somewhere else, like sitting at home watching the Stanley Cup being presented to the LA Kings.
This meeting, however, shaped up to be one of the more interesting ones I would be going to. On this particular Monday night at a packed council chamber, things got interesting in a hurry as a very ticked off Battlefords Tourism chair Donna Challis stood up at the podium and basically told council exactly what she thought of plans to wind down Battlefords Tourism and replace it with the Greater Battlefords Marketing Alliance. She was comparing it to tossing out the baby, the bathwater and the tub.
We don’t usually get this kind of excitement happening this early, I thought.
Then council went through much of the usual business at hand, with the usual announcements and inquiries, the report on the CUPlex construction, the monthly report from RCMP S. Sgt. Phil Wilson about the crime statistics, and other routine business.
What was really notable was an unusually large number of items on the agenda, including items that had been initially scheduled for a municipal services meeting that was cancelled. The meeting went on and on. “New business” wasn’t introduced until we were about an hour or so into the meeting.
It was around that point Director of Business Development Denis Lavertu took the podium to defend the Greater Battlefords Marketing Alliance and say why it was needed. It quickly became apparent that council members were in favour of moving ahead with the marketing alliance but were a little concerned about the tourism people not being fully on board with it.
As the discussion ensued, I distinctly remember seeing Public Works Director Stewart Schafer and Parks and Recreation Director Keith Anderson huddled around an iPad, looking intently at the screen, watching radar images of what looked like a massive storm that was about to clobber the Battlefords.
Not long after, the cell phone of Fire Chief Pat MacIsaac rang loudly and he left the council chamber. I could only guess what that phone call was about.
It was pretty clear to me a very angry Mother Nature was about to barge in and make herself part of the agenda at that night’s meeting.
At that point the roof began to rumble and the sound of the wind knocking at the roof became really obvious to everyone in the council chamber. It was so bad it seemed like the roof might blow off the building.
That got my attention. I left the council chamber and looked out the city hall window, along with a half dozen administration staff.
I saw for myself the massive lightning storm in progress and the pounding of rain.
MacIsaac went back into the chamber to announce that power had been lost on the other side of the street. That was our cue to wrap up, and Mayor Ian Hamilton adjourned the council meeting right then and there, with plans to pick up where we left off the next day.
At that point in time the power went off at City Hall. Everyone tried to find their way out of the council chamber and down the stairs in the dark.
Initially I thought about staying inside to ride out the storm, but quickly reconsidered because I was worried what might happen to my recently repaired car if a flood hit the street.
I decided to make a mad dash for it. In the half-minute it took to run to the car, I was completely drenched in rain.
Driving home in that downpour was an adventure in itself, through a pounding of rain in the complete dark back to my apartment.
So that was my evening at city council in North Battleford June 25. Just another routine night on the job, right?
It was one council meeting that ended in a manner I didn’t expect. The top story wasn’t any decisions at the meeting – it was the fact the roof almost got raised, and not in a way people wanted.
Life in the news business is never dull. That was especially true this night.