Referring to a two week period in January 1999 when most of Montreal and the surrounding region was hit by a tremendous storm. During the night, severals inches of water and hail fell and then proceeded to freeze over on everything from cars to trees to transmission lines. Power lines, trees, and even long range behemouth sized transmission lines fell under the weight of the ice, leaving much of the city without power or heat. A state of emergency was declared at a point when power was out in most of the city (where most people use electric heating), and temperatures dropped to a peak of -30 degrees centigrade (or 243K). Streets were blocked by debris and massive snow banks, schools were closed, businesses failed to open, however, the mail still came every day.

The Great Ice Storm was not limited to Montreal, as devastating as it was there.

Eastern Ontario, and much of the Maritimes was struck by this freak of nature. (Though now that it has happened, it can happen again.)

In the first week of January, 1998, (I think BelDion has the date wrong), though there had been signs in the last week of 1997, not one, but nearly six storm systems came north from the Gulf of Mexico.

To look at satellite weather maps, and weather radar was to see a mass of thick clouds extend north through tornado alley all the way to Ottawa, and points east.

In eastern Ontario, there is a curious phenomena at work. It is a river valley, with the Ottawa River at the bottom. So, in this valley, the cold, dry, Artic air settles. The warm, moist tropical air rises over this, where it lets go.

The precipitation, that starts out as rain, falls through the layer of cold air near the ground, and superchills. On contact with anything it turns to ice. Cars, trees, buildings, electric wires, sidewalks.

The ground, sidewalks, roads become treacherous--ice is a slick blanket over every inch. And everywhere ice falls--coated branches, chunks of ice...with great crashes!

And, of course, the power lines fall--under their own weight, or under the weight of falling branches. For a week, at night, every night, throughout the night, randomly, loud gunshot CRACKS! would sound. Branches snapping under the strain. And many were crashed through power wires.

This is quite frightening.

And each day there was another storm. Never have I seen the weather reporter, on CBC, though I'm sure on all other stations too, speak about the seriousness of the weather.

As it was, most of Ottawa managed to survived, though there were many local communities without power for varying periods. Those places with lots of trees, had lots of line breaks. And when they were repaired; they broke again.

The rural areas around Ottawa were much more severely affected. Some were without power for 8 weeks, and had to move to hotels, or move in with friends.

Ontario Hydro, Hydro Quebec had their workers on 24 hours a day for weeks. Many linemen came in from the United States to help--for which we are all grateful.

It could have been worse. Eastern Ontario is supplied with electricity from southern Ontario, presumably form the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, by 3 high voltage lines. Reports were that 2 of them had gone down. By the end of the week, the sixth straight storm system...vanished.

Ottawa was within a day of returning to the stone age. No electricity! None, anywhere. Like Montreal. Ottawa was lucky!

This storm, or several storms, was unprecedented. this had never happened before. Weather has changed. The same phenomena that extends tornado alley, on a regular basis into Canada, brought this catastrophe.

We have changed the climate. And we are suffering for it.

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