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The power of Arthur witnessed at Peggy's Cove

Mark Robinson and fellow storm chaser George Kourounis saw the raw power of Arthur at Peggy's Cove.

Mark Robinson and fellow storm chaser George Kourounis saw the raw power of Arthur at Peggy's Cove.

Mark Robinson

Monday, July 7, 2014, 8:05 PM - When you get intense winds over an open body of water like an ocean, you get big waves. 

Arthur was the first hurricane I’d been able to intercept since 2012 and Super Storm Sandy. Both storms had swept up the east coast, but in the case of Arthur, there was going to be no sudden west turn into the continent and that meant that Nova Scotia would be the best spot to report on it.

So off I went.

Courtesy: Mark Robinson

Courtesy: Mark Robinson

The storm would be undergoing post-tropical transition (definition here) when it made landfall somewhere on the Nova Scotia coast, but that was exactly what I expected for a storm that far north.

It was only as Arthur began to a sweep over us that we noticed something that I did not expect: There was no rain at Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove is exposed more than many other areas of the province and due to the geography of the sea bed and surrounding points, it’s subject to the waves of the open ocean. And when those waves are driven by hurricane force winds, the sheer size can be jaw dropping. Arthur was pushing waves as large as nine metres out at sea and the biggest question that George Kourounis and I had was whether or not those would impact the shoreline.

When we arrived at Peggy’s, waves were beginning to pile up on the rock. They weren’t much bigger than what you might expect on any given day, but the wind was beginning to howl. Arthur was moving up on Nova Scotia fast and I knew it was only a matter of time before the waves began to really build. We headed out to the edge of the water to document the waves being careful to stay well off the black rocks.

As the wind began to speed up, the waves built higher and we retreated away from the water. Getting hit by even a small one could be fatal. If you were swept into the ocean, there was no rescue. As the relentless waves crashed against the rocks, we had to move back.  We had made it to the parking lot as the first massive waves began to slam into the rocks. The white surf exploded over top of the rock and water crashed down towards the parking lot, draining along a grass field that we had been standing in only minutes before. This was what happens when five-to six-metre waves slammed into an immoveable coastline. Given the strength and path of the storm, this was pretty much what I hope for and had expected.

What I didn’t expect was the influx of tourists to the Cove. The last time intercepted a hurricane at the Cove, the RCMP had closed off the road behind us and we’d spent the entire storm almost totally alone in the parking lot. This time, the waves weren’t expected to be as large, so they’d decided that they didn’t need to close it off. So, about an hour after we’d arrived, the first tourists (not chasers) arrived. And then more arrived. And more and more. Around noon, the parking lot was so full of cars, there was a traffic jam getting in and out. I’d never been on a hurricane intercept that had so many people around. Normally, as we drive towards the target zone, everyone is headed out. This time, everyone was following us right into the heart of the storm.

The combination of waves and tourists was likely to lead to trouble, and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone had wisely stayed off the rocks when the big ones were hitting, but as they began to die down, some headed back out. That was when a massive wave struck and two women were knocked off. Lucky for them, they only thing they gathered was a few bruises and cuts. They also took away a valuable lesson: chasing hurricanes requires sound judgment.

As my namesake storm (Little known fact: my first name is Arthur, not Mark) headed to Greenland, I reflected on the fact that I’d managed to nab the earliest hurricane chase I’d ever been on, gotten to Peggy’s Cove ahead of the hordes and was able to document what I would consider my second best Canadian hurricane chase ever.

Mission Arthur: Complete.

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