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NNSL Photo/graphic

When winds reached 155 km/h on Nov. 26, parts of the Northern store metal stripping on the roof flew off, landing in the street and across telephone wires. - photo courtesy of Jeffrey Henderson

Just another windy day

Jillian Dickens
Northern News Services

Pangnirtung (Dec 12/05) - Property was damaged but nobody was seriously injured when winds reached up to 155 km/h in Pangnirtung on the early morning of Nov. 26.

Winds were so fierce they shattered the windshield of the bylaw van, with bylaw officer Jackie Maniapik and three passengers inside.

Windshield particles landed in one woman's eye, "when the window blew up," said Maniapik. "I didn't catch her name."

The Northern store received the brunt of the storm when approximately 500 metres of its metal roofing strips were torn off the building at about 4 a.m., landing on telephone wires and on the RCMP property across the street.

Telephone service remained intact.

"The metal strips just draped over the line like clothes on a clothesline, but they didn't actually cut the wire," said Northern store manager Bob Young.

The Northern was closed Saturday, while a construction crew, in town on a contract with the hamlet, secured the roof by removing all loose material and placing tarps across the section with the missing metal strips.

"We opened up again on Sunday once the wind died down and there was no chance of anyone getting hurt," said Young.

The cost of the damage isn't known yet as the North West Company, which owns the Northern stores, awaits on news from the contractors.

"It is substantial," said Trent Hood, manager of maintenance services for the company.

Permanent repairs could be held off until the next sealift, depending on the effectiveness of the interim solution, he said.

The lower portion of the community lost power for more than a day, and the entire community lost power on and off several times when the wind was strongest.

Back-up heating units kicked in once power was lost, so everybody was warm, said acting mayor Sakiasie Sowdluapik.

A number of boats shored up on the land were completely flipped over and a few shacks were damaged and house windows smashed.

On Saturday about five per cent of the 1,200 residents took shelter in one of the two schools.

Maniapik spent 18 hours transporting people to the school, and checking up on elders who remained at home.

"(My) biggest worry was the elders," said Sowdluapik.

Sowdluapik was most impressed with how calmly people reacted to the situation. He attributes this to Pang's long history of brutal storms.

Pang is located at the end of a fiord. The towering mountains on either side create a funnel effect for strong winds.

In the past the health centre and several houses were blown away.

"In my 49 years in Panniqtuuq, we have seen major ones that destroyed a lot more than this last one," said Sowdluapik.

On the Friday before the storm hit, Sowdluapik was informed winds were only going to reach 90 kilometres an hour.

"These storms do come without warning," he said.

The temperature was mild at -3C, and it only began snowing during the day, when winds had died down significantly.

"I want to thank Nunavut Power, public works, bylaw and businesses, the RCMP, Parks Canada and housing for working together and doing such a good job handling the situation," said the mayor.