News

1. Fiona

American model simulation of Fiona as it nears Nova Scotia Friday night. (WeatherBell)

A problem with the repeated over-hyping of every tiny weather event is that we can become desensitized to actual dire forecasts.

But all indications are that Fiona is the real deal, a generational, record-breaking storm. As they say: be prepared!

Jeff Masters and Bob Hensen have a detailed discussion of the science of Fiona, and its predicted effects, here. As I understand it, Fiona won’t technically be a hurricane when the centre of the storm (it won’t have a defined eye) comes ashore near Canso, but rather a post-tropical cyclone very much like “Superstorm Sandy,” which devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012. Hurricane-force winds will extend from Halifax to Sydney, with the worst of it in the Strait area.

You know what to do: get potential projectiles indoors, tie down what you can’t bring indoors, hunker down tonight, check up on your neighbours tomorrow, and expect long power failures.

People on wells should stock up on water, but that shouldn’t be a concern for people connected to Halifax Water: if the municipal system fails, we’ve got problems even bigger than a hurricane. (The utility has backup generators at its pumping stations that continue to pressurize the system during power failures.) That said, people living in sky rises may lose pressure if their buildings’ pumps become inoperable.

The roads are going to be a mess tomorrow, and a lot of businesses won’t be open. It’s always striking to me how many retailers can’t operate without power — not because their operations depend on power (which of course makes sense) but rather because their point-of-sale processes are so computerized they can’t use a simple cash box. But yes, have cash on hand.

We’re in for a long ride, I think.

Sable Island horses

Sable Island horses. Photo: Sarah Medill / Parks Canada

Sable Island is ground zero for Fiona today. In storms, the horses gather in the lee of the sand dunes, but given Fiona’s powerful punch, they’ll be terrorized.

People have complex and differing relationships with animals. There’s a romanticization of the Sable Island horses I can’t relate to. I understand that some people deeply want those horses to stay where they are, but when I think of them, I see only suffering.

CBC reporter Frances Willick interviewed researcher Emily Jenkins in 2019; Jenkins conducted the first study of Sable Island horse mortality since the 1970s. Reported Willick:

Starvation was one of the key factors in the deaths of the animals, especially for yearlings, who have lower social status and less access to prime grazing territory.

That lack of forage is reflected in the horses’ bones. Jenkins said healthy horses will have fat everywhere — under their skin, around their organs and in their bone marrow. When food is lacking, the fat in the marrow is the last to get depleted.

Some dead Sable Island horses were on their last fat reserves, with just six per cent of fat left in their marrow.

It’s not just the lack of food that affects the horses’ nutrition. Their bad teeth, worn down by the large quantities of sand in their diet, mean they can’t chew their food well and don’t get as many nutrients as they would otherwise.

The ever-present sand on the island also contributes more directly to the demise of some horses, as it can block their gastrointestinal tract.

The researchers found the bacteria that causes strangles, a virus that causes respiratory disease and abortion, and the parasite lungworm — a surprise, Jenkins said, since lungworm is usually associated with the presence of donkeys.

Fecal egg counts — measurements that reflect the number of worms in a horse’s stomach and intestines — were 1,500 eggs per gram of feces, or three times higher than what would be considered high for a domestic horse.

“I think if our domestic horses had fecal egg counts as high as the Sable horses, they would just drop dead,” Jenkins said.

I think the horses should be removed, and provided better pasture land somewhere on the mainland. (Some of my colleagues disagree, and have been pushing for an Examiner-sponsored expedition to the island.)

This opinion will generate more comment than will my reporting that 12 people died from COVID last week.

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2. COVID

This graph shows the weekly reported deaths since January. Given delays in determining cause of death, deaths may have occurred before the week they were reported.

Nova Scotia is reporting 12 new deaths from COVID, through the most recent reporting period, Sept. 13-19. In total, 534 people have died from COVID in Nova Scotia through the pandemic, 422 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).

Additionally, for the same reporting period, 42 people were hospitalized because of COVID.

Nova Scotia Health has provided the current (as of yesterday) COVID hospitalization status:
• in hospital for COVID-19: 36 (3 of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID-19: 125
• in hospital who contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 65
The above figures do not include any (if any) children hospitalized at the IWK.

This graph shows the weekly lab-confirmed new cases since January. The gap reflects a temporary change in testing protocols that makes weekly comparisons meaningless.

During the same reporting period (Sept. 13-19), there were 893 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases, the lowest weekly count this calendar year. However, I think this metric is becoming less important, as it seems not many people can or bother to get a PCR test.

It strikes me that COVID is now just another background bad thing, right along with growing fascism, wars, climate change, economic stress, and the rest. Of course lots of people deny that one or even all of these things are bad, and gaslight us, telling us we’re frail cowards or whatever for caring about them.

But a dozen or so people dying every week from a disease that didn’t exist three years ago seems like a bad thing to me, ya know?

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3. Joi Scientific

How’d I miss New Brunswick spending $13 million on a perpetual motion machine?

Back in 2017, NB Power began secretly working with a Florida-based company called Joi Scientific, which was promoting a seawater-to-hydrogen technology that supposedly produced twice as much energy as was put into it.

Michael Barnard, who studies decarbonization strategies for CleanTechnica and other organizations, took a look at the patents filed by Joi Scientific’s founders and reported:

The patents were illuminating, and reflected the public claims in its promotional videos.

“In the system and methods described herein, quantities of Hydrogen gas exceeding 3.42 milliliters have been realized. This production rate exceeds the 1 to 1 rate by a factor of 2. That is, the efficiency achieved is 2 to 1 (3.42=1.71*2). In the exemplary systems, for one watt of input energy, two watts of energy in the form of hydrogen gas is achieved (a level of 200 percent).”

This was the first interesting point I stumbled across, and represented one of two or three Nobel Prize-worthy achievements, if they had been true, violating as they do both the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Another red flag was the lack of any actual output numbers beyond what was claimed in the patents. Nothing. No technical input/output results. No reports. No white papers. No scientific papers. No peer-reviewed results. No third-party results. Nothing.

I don’t see that there was any accountability for the fiasco. So far as I know, no one lost their job for it, although as I say, I haven’t been following it.

As Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator points out, Joi Scientific is a cautionary tale for the entire “green hydrogen” industry — there’s lots of hype, a lot of unexamined claims, and billions of dollars in public money being tossed around willy nilly, no doubt creating many private fortunes.

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4. Meinhard Doelle

Meinhard Doelle. Photo: Dalhousie University

On Saturday afternoon, a cyclist was killed on Highway 215:

On September 17 at approximately 2:45 p.m. West Hants District RCMP, Walton Fire and EHS responded to a report of a motor vehicle and pedestrian collision on Hwy. 215 in Pembroke.

Upon arrival, officers learned that an SUV travelling southwest on Hwy. 215 and a cyclist who was travelling in the opposite direction collided as the cyclist was attempting to cross the roadway. The cyclist, a 58-year-old man from Halifax, was pronounced deceased at the scene. No one else was injured in the collision.

The driver and sole occupant of the SUV, a 64-year-old man from Pembroke, was displaying signs of impairment and was arrested at the scene. He was taken to Windsor RCMP Detachment for a breath demand and later released pending further investigation.

The cyclist was Meinhard Doelle, a beloved Dalhousie environmental lawyer. You can read his obituary here, and a tribute from Dalhousie here.

I didn’t know Doelle well, but the few times we met I found him generous, smart, and kind. I know his loss has profoundly affected Halifax’s environmental community.

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Government

No events


On campus

Dalhousie

Sustainable Ocean Conference 2022 (Friday, 8:30am, 2nd floor, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — continuing tomorrow; this conference will explore complex topics of ocean conservation and sustainability, by navigating below the surface of current marine issues.

Social and Structural Determinants: Where Health Really Comes From (Friday, 12pm, Weldon Law Building and online) — Gaynor Watson-Creed will talk

Masterclass with Walter Borden (Friday, 1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Bringing a Journey of Life to the Stage – An open discussion and exploration of storytelling and artistic practice

“They Will Crack Heads When the Communist Line is Expounded”: Anti-Communist Violence in Cold War Canada (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building and online) — Kassandra Luciuk will talk; MS Teams link here


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: MSC Angela, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for a “drifting area” away from Fiona
08:00: Conti Crystal, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
10:00: LÉ James Joyce, Irish naval patrol vessel, moves from Tall Ships Quay to dockyard

Cape Breton
06:30: Viking Star, cruise ship with up to 930 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Boston, on a 12-day cruise from New York to Montreal (the ship has bypassed a planned Halifax stop, and is moving on before the storm arrives)
12:00: Viking Star, cruise sails for Gaspé, Quebec


Footnotes

Short and sweet this morning. I gotta clean up the yard and buy some chips.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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4 Comments

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  1. Two container ships bound for Halifax came close to port and then veered away to the SW and are now SW of Barrington Passage.

  2. The environmental community has had a rough couple of weeks. Meinhard Doelle, Burckhard Plache, and Arcade Comeau…
    Now that you’ve said it I can’t NOT comment on it. The horses will be fine… they’ve survived two hundred years of storms.
    There are currently 4 humans out there as well getting ready to hunker down.
    In the case of an extreme emergency there is an enclosed marine life boat near the houses to jump into.