Thunder, lightning and a little bit of luck

Online First Pictou Island Memories

Weird, wacky weather recently blew across parts of Nova Scotia especially in the Pugwash area on Wednesday, August 18. Lightning struck and wild winds blew, however weird weather patterns have occurred before.

It happened on Saturday August 8, 1959.  I recall how nice the day started with a beautiful, clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. A favoured activity at that time for us kids on Pictou Island was fishing smelts at the West End wharf. I had for some time been trying to convince my brother Vincent to come fishing with me. It was on this Saturday morning when he informed me to get our fishing rods because were going fishing. Unfortunately, something that we didn’t do was inform our parents of our where-a- bouts. We hopped on our bicycles and away we went. We arrived at the wharf in about 10 minutes and proceeded to gather snails for bait. The concrete wharf has steel ladders on its side that enabled us to climb down and pick the snail off its surface. The tide was almost high and we could see the smelts swimming beneath the water and under the boats that were tied there. This was gonna be a perfect day for fishing smelts – or so we thought.

We had probably fished for a couple of hours and had caught quit a few smelts. A slight wind began to blow and I remember seeing strange looking clouds rolling across the sky. We both though that we might get a little shower of rain but being a couple of young kids and not being afraid of getting a little wet, we figured that this would blow over and we would head for home later. It seemed like no time when jet-black clouds were directly over us and the lightning began. We then realized that we were in for a bit more then just a little wetting. Suddenly, lightning streaked in different directions across the sky and the thunder roared as though someone had hit an empty gas drum.

As soon as that first clap of thunder sounded, the sky opened up and the hail and rain started to fall. I remember the hail, those large chunks of ice that started to pelt us on the head. Our father’s boat, The Slo-Mo-Shun was tied up at the wharf. Dad had been preparing the boat for herring fishing and had just installed a small cabin on her deck. I remember Vincent and I making a scramble for that little cabin. I recall how the lightning flashed and the thunder roared like never before. It sounded as though someone was throwing stones at the boat but it was the hail hitting the cabin. Even the wind was scary.  It would come in powerful gusts against that little boat and snap it against its lines.

About that time, Vincent and I remembered that we didn’t tell anyone that we were going to the wharf. We had informed mom that we might be going to Edward Rankin’s to play floor hockey in his barn. We also had been talking about going out through the woods to the north side. I had discovered a drowned deer that had washed up on the north shore a few days prior and I was going to show Vincent my find. It was then that we became more concerned about our parents being worried about us then we were about the weather. Being near the water was probably one of the worst places we could have been at in a lightening storm. It seemed that the lightning was exploding around us and real loud snaps from the thunder had us thinking that something close by must have been struck by the lightening.

My memory has me seeing my face stuck to the porthole window in the cabin when I saw my father arriving at the wharf in his truck. We must have been in the cabin of the boat for at least 15 minutes. It didn’t take us long to scramble from the boat and into the truck. Our father was a man of few words. We kids learned to read the expressions on Dad’s face to know what he was thinking and this was one time when it best if we remained silent. We were driving just east of the wharf by Edward Rankin’s place and as Vincent and I had suspected, lightning had struck something. Two telephone poles had been struck and the phone line was scattered everywhere. The wooden telephone poles had been turned into splinters and they were lying across the road and in the ditch.

It wasn’t until we noticed this that our father finally spoke. Dad told us that Mom was worried sick about us and had been calling neighbours on the telephone to see if anyone had seen us. When the lightening hit the poles, the current went through the phone lines and into our house. The telephone in our house was knocked from its wall mountings. Mom although unhurt, was thrown across the dinning room. A barn closer to the East End of the island and belonging to Janie MacCullum was also hit by the lightning which resulted in the barn being split in half. The center beams were splintered but no fire resulted. This was unique weather for we were no sooner home when the sky cleared and the sun again shone. This is one of my many memories from Pictou Island that I probably will never forget.