Montrealers remember the ice storm of 1998, 25 years later

Click to play video: 'Montrealers remember the ice storm of 1998, 25 years later'
Montrealers remember the ice storm of 1998, 25 years later
WATCH: It has been 25 years since the start of the infamous ice storm that crippled parts of Quebec and Ontario. Between January 4 and 9, 1998 nearly 180 millimeters of freezing rain paralyzed a portion of both provinces including much of Montreal. As Global’s Phil Carpenter reports, the memories are still vivid for people who experienced the event – Jan 4, 2023

The temperature in Montreal was 4 C Wednesday, unusually high for January, and for Pointe-Claire resident Lynne Green, that brings flashbacks of what happened 25 years ago.

“Definitely,” she stated, taking a break from working at her Valois Village café.  “It was warm in December, I got married in December, there was no snow.”

Weeks later, on Jan. 4, freezing rain started and didn’t stop for six days straight.

Read more: Quebecers still have vivid memories of 1998 ice storm on 20th anniversary

About 100 mm fell, encasing much of Quebec, including Montreal, as well as parts of Ontario, in ice.

“Who would’ve thought it would’ve lasted so long?” asked Green rhetorically.  “We had ice before but nothing like that.  It got scary as it got dark.”

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For many, it got really dark. A million and half Quebecers, including tens of thousands in Montreal, lost power as Hydro-Québec transmission lines collapsed.

“Some of those lines, especially in the Montérégie region, were brought down by the weight of the ice on the cables,” explained Caroline Des Rosiers, Hydro-Québec spokesperson.

“It brought down the cables but also the steel towers.”

There was a domino effect as one collapsed transmission tower pulled others to the ground, including ones leading to Montreal.

“We did have a scare with Montreal with that one transmission line that was left,” she pointed out.

If that last one had fallen, thousands more on the island would’ve lost power.

In the city and across the province, hundreds of thousands were forced into shelters for weeks because of the outages.

“We moved into the airport Hilton [hotel] and we stayed there for pretty much the duration of the ice storm,” Green told Global News.

Read more: Looking back at the Ice Storm of 1998 (2013)

At least 30 deaths have been attributed to the storm.

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With an ice storm looming over parts of Quebec Wednesday night, 25 years later, some do wonder if another storm like the one in ’98 could happen again.

According to Marie-Eve Giguère, warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, though the St Lawrence valley is prone to getting ice storms, the conditions which led to the ’98 event are unusual.

“Three systems, back to back, one after the other between Jan. 4 and Jan. 9, all moisture-laden, are extremely rare,” she said.

According to Hydro-Québec there are now stronger towers and structures to avoid cascading collapses of transmission towers, and there are also backup lines — a relief to survivors, like Green.

Click to play video: 'Former president of Utilities Kingston speaks on ice storm of 1998'
Former president of Utilities Kingston speaks on ice storm of 1998

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