Sunday, 6 January 2008

The 1998 Ice Storm

My local world is doing a retrospective this week. Ten years ago there was a huge ice storm, one of the most debilitating weather patterns ever to hit eastern Ontario. The local paper is carrying all the information anyone could ever want about it. Here is my story.

What I remember about the ice storm is the dark. During the ice storm I wanted to get to Perth, a half hour drive from our rural home under normal conditions, daily to visit the hospital where my elderly aunt lay, confused and ill. And in fact I made it every day except one, because some of our neighbours had cattle on the farm two south of us and they were chopping and hacking a hole down the road every day to see to the cattle.

There was no light anywhere. With the sky mostly overcast, at dusk everything faded out and there were no landmarks, nothing, only my headlight beams, as I slithered and bucked down the road, catching the ice on the branches and stumps. Once I got to the paved roads, where the trees were farther back, everything glittered as I passed, but I moved in a small circle of my own light. Rarely, a lantern on a porch or the lights of another car would give some relief.

Late on Friday afternoon, as I passed the parking lot of the grocery store on Highway 7 in Perth, I could see a dim blue glow, a lot of small blue lights, but I was too preoccupied with driving to see more. It was on my way home, after my hospital visit, that I realized what the blue lights were. Ahead of me across the level fields of the farms just west of Perth stretched a ribbon of blue riding lights. I was driving behind a convoy of army trucks, each of them carry blue side lights. I could see the whole long line of vehicles in front of me heading for a staging point at Lanark Village. The army was on its way to help.

Armed with chainsaws and determination, these youngsters cleared the way for the highway crews, checked on every isolated home and camp, set up generators, helped in the emergency shelters and generally endeared themselves to all of us, even though their attack on the piled broken trees could be mighty scary. They worked like beavers. Each night as I drove home from Perth there was more light -- another section of power lines restored. And one wonderful day, twenty one days after the lights went out, the hydro crew got to us and the power came back on.
I followed those trucks, beacons in the dark, with tears in my eyes and ten years later I still find myself weeping when I think of that ribbon of light.


  1. Mary, how beautiful. What an amazing story.

  2. 21 days. wow.

    this story, with the chainsaws and no power, made me think of our area, after the hurricane. But we were much more fortunate, it only took our home about 2 weeks to get power back (some areas took MUCH, MUCH, MUCH longer) and we weren't FREEZING (sweating is bad, but not as bad as freezing!)