The January 1998 Ice Storm Montreal, Quebec, Canada

All text and images copyrighted by Stephen McDonnell

 Late Breaking News: After the Storm

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Late Breaking News Feb 21 th: I am having some friends over tonight, many who helped us during the icestorm, to see a slide show of my native Louisiana. It is Mardi Gras time, after all. There will be a concert at 2PM Sunday, at the Place Des Arts Theatre for volunteers tommorow Sunday Feb 22. 3000 tickets have been donated.

Feb 18 th: Last night they were predicting more ice rain but it turned into snow. People are paranoid, tired of winter and still suffering from the after effects of the storm. Leaking roofs and damaged trees. Predictions of total destruction of the maple sugar trees has proved unfounded. Nature will heal itself. The politics of the storm continue. The insurance companies expect to hit the 1 billion dollar mark for claims, as predicted. Life goes on.

News Feb 16 th: Last Saturday, Feb. 14, HydroQuebec connected up my house in the country, at last! My electrician had located and installed a power pole (as hard to find in Quebec now as an outdoor Nudist colony in the dead of Winter). We called HydroQuebec to have them connect us, and when we called them on Saturday morning they said, yep, we had been connected. Of course the reason we were calling, was because my brother in law had just called us to say it had not been connected. So I said a few choice words and they did get it connected. Was I the last one in Quebec to get power back? Do I care, as long as it works; now where did I put that catalog on solar electricity?

News Feb 10th: Temperatures have been higher than normal, above freezing and there has been no precipitation for the last 10 days, another record. Weather predictions are saying rain is on its way, freezing rain? Ice removal continues in Montreal. I woke up to a cold house, one of the circuit breakers had tripped and my furnace did not heat; Oh well.

News Feb 9th: There is still ice on the side walks of Montreal, less than before, because drilling machines and icepicks have been used to remove it. The rest has been sanded. In the Triangle of Darkness, most of the power has been restored. Pockets of people are still in the dark, more than a month ago; but the landscape is dotted with new power poles and wires. A gigantic job has been accomplished by Quebec, Canadian and American telephone and electric linesmen (and do not forget the Canadian Military)! In my mail box, I have received a circular asking me to boycott certain gas stations that raised their prices during the ice storm; people in the country have long memories. The Federal government of Canada has refused to pay HydroQuebec any money for losses caused by the ice storm.

News Feb3-6: There are estimates of 3 Billion Dollars Canadian of lost income at businesses because of the Ice Storm; estimates of 6000 companies going bankrupt if financial aid is not forthcoming. Last Night, Jan 5, there was a power outage in the the Chateauguay, Delson area South of Montreal. News of the Mount Royal Park is bleak: 180,000 trees were effected by the ice storm, 80 % were damaged, 50 % of those trees are badly damaged, 5000 trees have to be cut down, 15 million dollars will be needed to restore the the park. The ice is still thick on some sidewalks and roofs. Several deaths and broken bones have been caused by the cleaning off of ice on roofs.

News Feb 2nd: Higher than average temperatures are predicted for the next couple of days; above freezing. Premier Bouchard promises that by next Sunday, all the residents of the Triangle of Darkness South of Montreal will have electricity.

News January 29th: Snow removal is finished, a light snow fall was expected today and into tomorow. The Montreal Gazette published a front page article explaining the behavior of many Montrealers is a result of "Post Traumatic Stress". My brother in law called me this morning to announce that he had electricity back, though there are still pockets of people who are still in the dark and cold in the triangle of darkness south of Montreal. Many people have leaky roofs, due to ice accumulation.

News January 29th: Snow removal is almost finished, snow and ice is also being cleared from roofs. The Canadian dollar hits its lowest value yet. Quebec government figures quoted on the radio estimate that 100,000 trees were "injured" by the ice storm and that the forests have been "harmed." @45,000 houses outside of Montreal are still without electricity. My brother in law (who lives in the triangle of darkness) called me this morning to tell me he had the telephone back; he had re-attached it himself as well as the hydro-electric line. He told me that the Hydroelectric crew told him he had done a good job and as soon as there was enough "juice", he would get electricity-in 1 or 2 weeks! The electricity was cut to Concordia Loyola campus yesterday and this afternoon. A "scientific" study will be held to determine what happened, reportedly by the same team that looked into the Saguenay floods 2 years ago. At the time of the floods, there were allegations that HydroQuebec dams had caused the flooding.

News January 28th: Snow removal is continuing. The Montreal Gazette had an article yesterday describing how the stress of the ice storm and its aftermath would affect people. The weekly Mirror had an editorial suggesting that Prozac be poured into the cities water supply to calm everyone down. Approximately 10,000 homes are still without power. In a private communication with me, a tree expert suggests that more trees will be damaged by over zealous pruning and cutting down than by the ice storm itself. In the rush to clean up, some tree trimmers may go overboard. The Canadian dollars falls in value even more. The sun is out and it is beautiful winter day in Montreal. 9 linesman from the Newfoundland Electric Utilities, who are helping out in Quebec, are the lucky winners of 1 point plus million dollars Canadian after a ticket they had purchased for fun won the Loto Quebec Jackpot yesterday, congratulations guys!

News January 26 th: Snow removal will reportedly take another 4 days, the snow storm that occurred last Friday left accumulations of 20 to 30 cms. Several more buildings have had their roofs collapse. A 100 year olf Russian orthodox cathedral burned down last night forcing the evacuation of neighboring apartment buildings; Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard was one of those evacuated. One of Montreal's most eminent rabbis passed away and services were held at Beth Jacob School yesterday. A thousand boy scouts helped in the cleaning up of the cities parks this weekend. The St. Cesar power station was reported to be have been brought back on line early this morning giving hope to the triangle of darkness area that power will soon be reestablished to homes there. 4 weeks after the storm hit Quebec, there are still homes without electricity and telephone.

News January 24 th: Snow was piled up on Montreal streets this morning. Reports of 5 collapsed roofs. The Montreal Gazette published a special edition to commemorate the storm. Both Newsweek and Time magazine have stories on the storm; the later published a five page report. The Toronto Globe and Mail ran three articles and an editorial on the storm. Some of the statistics garnered by a poll commissioned by the Globe and Mail and la Presse were published in one of the articles. (The term Quebeckers appeared in the article and is repeated here just as published, but does not reflect my opinions or usage.)

  • 6 out of every 10 Quebeckers lost electricity at some point during the storm
  • 1 in 4 had to seek refuge with friends or family during the crisis
  • 1 in 4 had to take in family or friends
  • 96 % of those polled were satisfied with the involvement of the Canadian army
  • 61.5 % lost power at some point during the ice storm: 40% for more than 1 day, more than 10% for more than a week

Presently more than 300,000 thousand people are still without electricity or heat in parts of Quebec and Eastern Ontario, and there are Food shortages as reported in the article by Andre Picard entitled, "Residents still in dark are now short of food; Donations are needed as items rot in freezers" HydroQuebec has promised that they will all have electricity by tomorrow.

News January 23 th:A snow storm made driving conditions difficult in and around Montreal this afternoon and into night; it was reported that 20 centimeters fell but snow accumulations of twice that amount were reported. HydroQuebec has release preliminary figures on the destruction to the electrical infrastructure. According to this morning's Montreal Gazette Newspaper the tally is as follows:

  • 130 Large Pylons for 735 Kilovolts transformers: Destroyed
  • 60 Medium Pylons for 315 Kilovolts: Destroyed
  • 80 Pylons for 120 Kilovolts: Destroyed
  • 25,000 transmissions poles (wooden beams): Destroyed

Radio CBC. Environmental groups are contesting HydroQuebec's hasty plan to launch into an immediate rebuilding program; they allege that it is simply a way of exporting more electricity to the United States and does not address the fundamental problems of protecting the system form another catastrophe. The Cree Indians, on whose land the James Bay Hydroelectric Dam is built, also are protesting Hydro Quebec's plans; they point out that of the 750 people that HydroQuebec employs at the dam, not one of them is a Cree Indian. HydroQuebec had published plans to increase the number of its employees working in the Cree territory. They would eventually outnumber the Indians if this plan is carried out; in any future Referendum Vote, this could produce interesting results.

News January 22 th:Power in most of Montreal seems to be stable. Convoys of military vehicles seemed to be leaving Montreal heading West. The military and HydroQuebec joined forces to bomb the ice covered electrical lines from James Bay; they sawed telephone poles into 2 foot lengths and then dropped them from helicopters onto the high tension lines. This knocked off the accumulated ice. The Canadian Dollar drops to the lowest price it has ever been, the Asian crisis is sited as the cause. There are still thousands of people without electricity in the Triangle of Darkness on the South Shore.

News January 21th: Power in most of Montreal has been reestablished and morning rush hour is normal. Power consumption is lower than last night. The Montreal Gazette reports that the Canadian Dollar dipped to it's lowest price since 1986. Quebec Provincial Financial Minister Landry sees silver lining in catastrophe as money will be pouring into Quebec for the repair of damage caused by Ice Storm. Sources predict that Insurance rates will climb 7 per cent next year, Electricity and Tax rates may also rise. Long lines expected this morning as first checks for compensation for power outage are issued today to Montrealers; 10 dollars per day per person for each day without electricity.

News January 20th: Down town Montreal was deprived of electricity at evening rush hour, closing the Orange Metro line, and forcing commuters to find other means of returning home. Thousands of people poured onto the streets and lined up for buses. One of the two remaining Hydroelectric lines, this from to James Bay, became overheated from accumulated ice. (Montreal has lost 3 of its 5 main electrical lines due to the Ice Storm) Downtown Montreal and parts of East Montreal were left in the dark till late in the night. (It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings!)

News January 7th to 18th: Please see my Ice Storm Diary for details of this time period. Because of a power blackout in my house, I was unable to access the internet. I started working on these web pages on the 19th and put them up on the 20th of January 1998