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Ice Storm 1998

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"The Ice Song"
El Nino strikes
the Valley

ice storm Chrysler
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ice storm and
flood photos
Ice Storm 1998 was just the beginning of disasters for the Chateauguay Valley. Global climatic fluctuations, blamed on "El Nino", wreaked havoc locally.

In January, a freezing rain fell for several days paralyzing a corridor along the Quebec-USA border that also struck Kingston, Ontario and Watertown, New York. Trees and utility poles snapped under the weight of the accumulated ice. Fallen electrical transmission towers left rural regions without heat for up to 6 weeks during the coldest period of winter.

When the lights went out and the furnace quit at our home in Chateauguay, Quebec, our family with a 9 month-old, sought refuge for 11 days at the home of friends who have gas stoves. We ate well by using up our freezer meats that would have otherwise spoiled without power, and by cooking outdoors on the gas barbecue grill. French and English neighbors put aside political differences during the crisis and worked together in survival mode. Many heroic and generous acts took place during the ice storm to provide food and shelter as electrical workers and the Canadian Armed Forces worked overtime to rebuild the power grid.

We were all weary from digging out driveways with picks and shovels, draining water pipes so they wouldn't freeze, caring for cold pets and infants and the elderly. Yet, I forced myself to get out and photograph as much of this historic event as possible.

ice storm towers
ice storm fireman
Hydro-Quebec workers chip ice from pylon while volunteer fireman shows fatigue.

ice storm sled
ice storm squirrel
An infant's sled gets a lift in St. Isidore;
a squirrel takes refuge beneath a transformer.

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Phil Norton
ice storm tree
Maple buds encased in frozen rain.
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Flood 1998 followed in the aftermath of the ice storm. The large accumulation of snow on top of fields glazed with ice sent spring melt waters directly into the streams. There was little warning for towns like Howick and St. Martine and homes built in the 100-year flood plain.

Valley residents are used to some high water when the river ice melts. But as one farmer near St. Chrysostome said about this year's thaw, "We found out that we all live in the flood plain."

ice storm flood
Hydro-Quebec truck submerged on North River Road.

ice storm flood
ice storm flood
Road-rowing to deliver a pump at Allan's Corners; and Rte. 138 traffic at St. Martine.

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ice storm flood

Washout near St. Urbain, Quebec.

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Photos copyright by Phil Norton 1998