The January 1998 Ice Storm Montreal, Quebec, Canada

All text and images copyrighted by Stephen McDonnell

 A Walk Through Mount Royal: a post storm mortem
Click here to see Panorama of Montreal in winter

See QUICKTIME VR Tour of Montreal at Cybernautics or Very Real VR

Today, February 12 th, 1998, the weather is again unseasonably mild, 5 degrees above freezing, shades of the pre ice storm temperatures which led to such tragedy. The city has all the aspects of a Casper David Friedrich Painting, with blocks of ice piled up everywhere in crazy quilt abstract sculptures, a grey fog makes the scene appear even more ghostly. The semblance to a Casper painting is really striking when one drives up into the Mount Royal Park (the park is located in the middle of Montreal on a series of hills). Parts of the park are now open, though with the warm weather, the Beaver Lake ice rink looks better suited for bathing. Most of the Park is still off limits to the Public. For good reason. Thousands of branches are embedded in ice and snow. A veritable bear trap of pointed branches lies hidden beneath the snow waiting for some unfortunate soul to impale him or herself. Tree branches are still falling, sometimes on the foolish or unsuspecting.

A Herculean effort has been underway since the end of the storm to gather up the fallen branches and cut down the most damaged trees. In the main parking lot, 20 foot high pyramids of wood chips testify to the damage. Yesterday I drove through the Park just out of curiosity. I was surprised and amazed to see the largest wood chipper in the world, or at least to my experience. It was the size of a trailer truck. Branches were being dumped into in to its maw, and today the pyramids of wood chips are the left overs. Even they are fast disappearing as huge trucks take them away to the Mirion dump. The 20 or so piles of wood chips make 3 steaming rows, covering the parking lot that is about the size of 2 foot ball fields. Some experts predict that it will take 15 million dollars and two years to repair all the damage to the Mountain.

I park and walk to the chalet at the Overlook (see picture above) but because of the fog, there is nothing to see. Montreal has disappeared. Millions of years ago, the mountain was supposedly surrounded by the St. Lawrence inner sea. Today, I can imagine what that must have looked like as I gaze out into the dense fog. Not many people are around. The few squirrels who come up to me as I walk around seem desperate for company. As I leave the parking, a funeral cortege passes me by. Even the dead must go on living. I go home to work and surf the net. On the radio I hear that thousands of homes near Drummondville are without power because of another ice rain storm; deja vu?

March 11.1998 I went to Mount Royal Park Overlook to shoot a Panorama of the City under a fresh blanket of snow. Windchill factor of minus 17 Centigrade, but sunny. The Friends of the mountain have set up a contribution box to help collect 15 million dollars; the box looked a little small to handle all that money. Efforts to prune and clear the fallen branches continue, and are expected to go on for the next 2 years. I hope to contribute to this effort as I want to be able to cross country ski and walk in the park again.