Today marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of what came to be known as Great Ice Storm of 1998. It started harmlessly enough with a day of freezing rain, which stretched into 2 days, 3 days and then a 4th day before it finally let up and colder weather moved into the region.
The Great Ice Storm of 1998 caused massive and widespread damage to trees and electrical infrastructure all over the area, leading to long-term power outages. Millions were left in the dark for periods varying from days to several weeks, and in some instances, months. Many suffered from hypothermia and there were a number of carbon monoxide poisoning related deaths reported. For more than 80 hours, steady freezing rain and drizzle fell over an area of several thousand square miles of Eastern Ontario, including Ottawa and Kingston, an extensive area in southern Quebec, northern New York, and northern New England (including parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine). Freezing rain accumulation added up to 100 mm in some areas.
Personally speaking, I was working at a radio station in Smiths Falls at the time, in one of the hard hit areas. Radio proved to be a valuable tool, helping to coordinate rescue efforts and conveying important information to everyone tuning in, pretty well round the clock from several days. We took in family members… as probably many of you did in early January of 1998. I’ll never forget it.