Sun. Jan. 4: Late in the day, freezing rain starts to fall on eastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec.
Mon. Jan. 5: Spotty power outages begin as ice loads on trees, poles, lines and pylons.
Tues. Jan. 6: Early estimates put at 650,000 the number of Ontarians and Quebecers that are without power.
Wed. Jan. 7: The crisis in Montreal begins as the Drummondville line fails. Montreal schools, universities and businesses close. More than one million Quebec customers are without electricity and tens of thousands of eastern Ontario homes are blacked out.
Thurs. Jan. 8: The storm turns uglier as ice continues to accumulate. Hydro-Québec seeks help and the first members of the Canadian Armed Forces reach Montreal. Much of Eastern Ontario declares a state of emergency.
Fri. Jan. 9: The Quebec government asks for more troops on the "worst day of the crisis." The number of Quebec customers without power peaks at 1.4 million. Much of Montreal loses its water supply after pumping stations lose power. The storm hits the Maritimes.
Sat. Jan. 10: Three million Quebecers – roughly half the province’s population – are without power.
Sun. Jan. 11: Hydro-Québec predicts it will need up to two weeks to restore power fully in the area south of Montreal. The number of soldiers in the affected area rises to 11,000. Crime is down 57 per cent.
Mon. Jan. 12: Over 4,000 customers in New Brunswick are without power. Police are given special powers to go door-to-door to order Montrealers from their homes. The federal government estimates storm damage at $500 million or more.
Tues. Jan. 13: Soldiers are given the power of arrest. Hydro-Québec turns off the giant illuminated Q on its headquarters and vows not to relight it until the crisis is over.
Wed. Jan. 14: Most of Montreal is back on line but outages still plague the south shore, parts of rural Quebec and eastern Ontario. Ottawa pledges aid of $50 million for Quebec and $25 million for Ontario. The death toll reaches 15.
Thurs. Jan. 15: There is a minor setback in Quebec when 4,000 Pointe Clair residents lose power. The downtown core of Montreal is re-opened, a day earlier than expected.
Fri. Jan. 16: Warnings are still being issued to avoid downtown Montreal due to falling ice.
Sat. Jan. 17: Hydro-Québec announces that it expects to have service completely restored within ten days. To date 460 transmission towers had been replaced. The Montreal Gazette estimates that total costs attributable to the storm could reach $1.5 billion.
Sun. Jan 18: The number of Quebec customers without service drops to 242,000 but still represents well over 500,000 people. Businesses in downtown Montreal are asked to open only between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The death toll reaches 25.
Mon. Jan 19: A major link is re-established in the ring of power that supplies Montreal after one 735 kilovolt line between Boucherville and Hertel is restored. About 500,000 Quebecers and 50,000 Ontarians are still without power. Montreal high school and university students return to classes. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that the 250,000 claims filed as of noon total $365 million.
Tues. Jan. 20: Voluntary restrictions on business hours for downtown Montreal are lifted. However a four-hour blackout hits the still-fragile system, affecting 110,000 customers in the metro area. About 200,000 Quebec customers are still without power. Service is restored to 100,000 out of 118,000 customers in eastern Ontario.
Wed. Jan. 21: Approximately 12,000 customers in Boucherville, Quebec lose power after regaining service only days before. Soldiers begin leaving the province as part of a gradual withdrawal. Ottawa announces it will help compensate dairy farmers and businesses affected by damaged maple and fruit trees.
Thurs. Jan. 22: More than 400,000 Quebecers remain without power. Hydro-Québec concedes that it can’t make its January 25 deadline for getting all of its customers back on line. Ontario Hydro has restored power to over 110,000 of its customers in eastern Ontario – leaving about 8,125 without service.
Fri. Jan. 23: The Conference Board of Canada estimates the cost of the ice storm will be close to $1.6 billion. Ottawa creates a task force to deal with the city’s trees – more than 45,000 of which were damaged or destroyed by ice.
Sat. Jan. 24: Three roofs collapse in Montreal under the weight of ice and 20 centimetres of new snow, which fell through the night Friday.
Sun. Jan. 25: Crews restore power to a key sub-station that serves Quebec’s south shore. The utility says half of the 60,000 customers still without power – most in the Triangle of Darkness – will be hooked up within one week. About 1,500 customers are still without power in eastern Ontario.
Mon. Jan. 26: At least 60,000 Quebec customers representing 150,000 people are still without power. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that the 378,000 claims filed as of noon total $476 million.
Tues. Jan. 27: Over 220 lineman arrive from British Columbia and Manitoba to help rebuild Quebec’s power grid. Hydro-Québec announces that in just three weeks it has exhausted its normal five-year supply of materials. Ontario Hydro says damage suffered to its system totals at least $100 million and may double by the end of the crisis.
Wed. Jan. 28: Quebec’s Premier announces that an independent commission will be set up to examine the handling of the ice storm crisis. Hydro-Québec says it will be February 15 before power is fully restored in the province. Ontario Hydro announces that only ten year-round customers in eastern Ontario are without power. The utility says almost 85,000 insulators, 2,800 kilometres of wire and cable, 11,647 poles and 2,100 transformers were delivered to eastern Ontario in the days following the storm.
Thurs. Jan. 29: At least 45,000 Quebec customers in 213 municipalities are still without power and some who originally were told they’d have their power back by January 25 were told they may have to wait as long as February 15.
Fri. Jan. 30: Canada’s Minister of Defence says the military’s bill to help clean up Quebec and Ontario after the ice storm is $60 million. Power is fully restored in Ontario and the provincial government starts to hand out relief cheques to farmers – about $1,000 for every week the power was off for a total of about $10 million.
Sat. Jan. 31: Over 50 shelters remain in operation, housing 1,700 people per night.
Sun. Feb. 1: Hydro-Québec officials warn of more blackouts saying its hastily repaired distribution system is still fragile. Thousands of people on the south shore enter their fourth week without power.
Mon. Feb. 2: Hydro-Québec moves up its deadline for restoring power to all its customers from February 15 to February 8. Over 19,500 customers representing 65,000 people remain without electricity in the province.
Tues. Feb. 3: Officials from Emergency Preparedness Canada and Agriculture Canada tell a House of Commons agriculture committee that the country should re-examine everything from personal readiness and insurance to farming practices following the disaster. More than 36,000 farms were affected by the ice storm.
Wed. Feb. 4: Quebec’s Public Security Minister announces he will introduce new legislation March 10 obliging municipalities to adopt emergency contingency plans and keep them up-to-date. One municipality affected by the storm had a plan dated from 1980.
Thurs. Feb. 5: An estimated 1,900 Hydro-Québec customers – or about 4,800 people – are without electricity. The utility says all Quebecers should have power by February 6.
Fri. Feb. 6: With the exception of about 100 temporary customers (chalets, campgrounds and sugar shacks) power is fully restored in the province of Quebec.
Ice Storm 98, though the worst in recent memory, is certainly not the first to strike the country, or Montreal for that matter. The city suffered a damaging ice storm on February 25 and 26, 1961 when 35 to 40 millimetres of freezing rain fell in the metropolitan area. Hydro wires coated with five centimetres of ice snapped in 120 km/h winds, leaving areas of the city without power for a week. Some of the most destructive ice storms have occurred in Newfoundland, where they are known as silver thaws. Such a storm struck St. John’s April 11, 1984 when 87 millimetres of freezing precipitation began falling in the evening and continued intermittently until the 14th. Over 200,000 people in the Avalon Peninsula were without electricity for days after cylinders of ice as large as 15 centimetres in diameter weighed-down overhead wires. Ontario has also had its share of ice storms. One event produced a three-day period of freezing rain in January 1968 while another struck eastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec on Christmas Eve 1986. After 14 hours of freezing rain, one Ottawa home in four was left without electricity. Southern Manitoba has also been hit with several ice storms in recent years. A particularly destructive storm on March 6, 1983 closed Winnipeg airport for two days and brought down several television towers.
Ice storms are a major hazard in all parts of Canada except the North, but are especially common from Ontario to Newfoundland. As might be expected, British Columbia has the least freezing precipitation (freezing rain and/or freezing drizzle) and Newfoundland the most. Gander has 40 days a year on average and St. John’s 39. Other cities, with their average number of freezing precipitation days, are: Vancouver, one; Edmonton, seven; Winnipeg, 12; Toronto, nine; Montreal, 15; and Halifax 13. The riskiest months for freezing rain are November through to January in the West; November through March in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes; and November through April in Newfoundland.
The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
Toronto Office 20 Richmond Street East, Suite 210, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2R9 Tel: (416) 364-8677 Fax: (416) 364-5889
London Office Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory Western University 1151 Richmond Street, London, Canada N6A 5B9 Tel: (519) 661-3234 Fax: (519) 661-4273