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Fri Jan 4, 2019, 11:04 AM

21 yrs ago today; The beginning of the 1998 North American Ice Storm

Last edited Fri Jan 4, 2019, 02:56 PM - Edit history (1)

January 1998 North American ice storm



The North American Ice Storm of 1998 (also known as Great Ice Storm of 1998) was a massive combination of five smaller successive ice storms in January 1998 that struck a relatively narrow swath of land from eastern Ontario to southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, and bordering areas from northern New York to central Maine in the United States. It caused massive damage to trees and electrical infrastructure all over the area, leading to widespread long-term power outages. Millions were left in the dark for periods varying from days to several weeks, and in some instances, months. It led to 35 fatalities, a shutdown of activities in large cities like Montreal and Ottawa, and an unprecedented effort in reconstruction of the power grid. The ice storm led to the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since the Korean War, with over 16,000 Canadian Forces personnel deployed, 12,000 in Quebec and 4,000 in Ontario at the height of the crisis.

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Impact

Many power lines broke and over 1,000 transmission towers collapsed in chain reactions under the weight of the ice, leaving more than 4 million people without electricity, most of them in southern Quebec, western New Brunswick and Eastern Ontario, some of them for an entire month. At least twenty-five people died in the areas affected by the ice, primarily from hypothermia, according to Environment Canada. Twelve more deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in additional damage were caused by the flooding farther south from the same storm system.

The bridges and tunnels linking Montreal with the South Shore were closed because of concerns about weight tolerances or ice chunks falling from the superstructures. All but one power linkage to the island of Montreal were down for several days, disabling both of the city's water pumping stations. When power was restored, parts of Montreal remained impassable due to large chunks of ice falling from rooftops, which endangered pedestrians and motorists; large portions of Old Montreal and the downtown core were cordoned off by police due to the dangers of large sheets of ice falling from buildings.

The area south of Montreal (Montérégie) was so affected that the triangle formed by Saint-Hyacinthe, Granby and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu was nicknamed the triangle noir ("dark or black triangle" ) by the French-language media, and the Triangle of Darkness in English media, for the total lack of electricity for weeks.

Cities such as Ottawa, Smiths Falls, and other Eastern Ontario municipalities, that had never experienced such an amount of freezing rain, declared a state of emergency. On January 7, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick called on the help of the Canadian Forces, prompting the deployment of more than 15,000 military personnel at the peak of the crisis. In addition to help residents, CN locomotives (CN3502 and CN3555) were moved off the tracks and used to provide power to residents of Boucherville and Coteau-du-Lac, south and west of Montreal respectively. A third locomotive was moved to Boucherville, but never actually put to use.

The loss of electrical power also greatly affected pig and cattle farmers, as they could no longer provide water or adequate ventilation to their barns full of livestock, leading to the death of many animals. Many barns also collapsed under the weight of the ice, killing the animals trapped inside.

Millions of trees were brought down by the weight of ice around the affected areas. As many trees were damaged or fell by the heavy ice, the maple syrup and orchard regions suffered heavy blows and massive losses in the storm; Quebec's maple sugar industry, the largest in the world, was devastated. As another example, 5,000 trees in Montreal's Mount Royal Park had to be cut, 80% (140,000) of the rest were damaged to different degrees and had to be trimmed, a large number severely. The mountain park looked more like a logging camp than a nature oasis for many weeks.


Two inches of ice on a twig, illustrating the impact.

Critically, about 1,000 steel electrical pylons and 35,000 wooden utility poles were crushed and crumpled by the weight of the ice, further damaging the power supply and hampering the return of electricity. Teams were brought in from places such as Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, along with teams from the United States and the Canadian Forces, to help restore power to affected homes in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

Roughly 700,000 of Maine's 1.2 million residents were without electricity, the Maine National Guard was mobilized, and hundreds of utility crews from as far away as North Carolina arrived to help.

Three weeks after the end of the ice storm, there were still thousands of people without electricity. In Quebec alone, 150,000 people were without electricity as of January 28. Estimates of material damage reached around $2 billion Canadian for Quebec alone. Overall estimates are around $4–6 billion US$ for all the areas affected. Damage to the power grid was so severe that major rebuilding, not repairing, of the electrical grid had to be undertaken.


I remember the city of Plattsburgh being completely closed for 2 weeks. This was a catastrophic storm.

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Reply 21 yrs ago today; The beginning of the 1998 North American Ice Storm (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jan 4 OP
marble falls Jan 4 #1
PJMcK Jan 4 #3
GreenPartyVoter Jan 4 #2

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2019, 11:26 AM

1. I've been through Plattsville when it was open. It seemed closed then, too.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 4, 2019, 01:04 PM

3. Oh, that's mean!

Funny, but mean.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2019, 12:14 PM

2. I was without power for ten days. 8 months preggers and

coping with Influenza. Not a fun time!

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