The 1998 Ice Storm in Quebec

Every year since 1995, I’ve been in Quebec for the holidays. I think the only exceptions have been 1996 when we were living in France and last year when we went down to Florida. Originally the visits to Quebec were to visit my then girlfriend who was returning to see her family, and after it was joining her to visit her family.

When I was coming from Chicago by car or by plane it was always a question whether the weather would affect our travel plans. In 1995-96 when I drove back, the normally 16 to 18 hour drive took 23 hours since the first third of it was at half speed due to snow covered roads or white out conditions. In 1998-99 (I think), a major blizzard hit just as we were entering Toronto on our drive back. Luckily we were stopping there to stay at a friend’s house. And the parents of the friend owned an Italian restaurant which had to close early because of it. So they brought home all the left over food. Definitely the best way to get snowed-in.

But then there was 1998. We had an early morning flight on Monday, January 5th. We knew a storm was coming so we headed out a bit early to allow enough time. My mother-in-law always prefers that I drive when we go places, so was at the wheel as she took us to catch our flight. Driving from Ste-Julie, we took the LaFontaine Tunnel to the island of Montréal. Then the 40 (Metropolitain) over to the airport. Conditions were horrible and progressively got worse. From Ste-Julie to the tunnel was wet and a bit slushy, though not enough to greatly reduce our speed. But by the time we got halfway across on the Metropolitain, the slush was three inches thick and we were only doing about 50km/h (30mph). It was obvious we would be late for our flight, but we continued on. In the end it had taken us about two hours to get there for a 40 minute trip. My mother-in-law left us at the airport and it took her six hours for the return trip. She took the day off.

At the airport, we were relieved to find that our flight had been delayed. We eventually boarded the plane and went through two de-icing passes. Our plane took off and from what I know we were one of the last flights before they closed the airport. We had averted the disaster.

My in-laws were caught right in the dark triangle. They were without power for weeks using their fireplaces to keep the pipes in the house from freezing. Relatives shifted from house to house depending on who had fire and heat.

Although part of me wishes we had been here to witness that event first-hand and share in the collective memory, I’m sure I would have hated living through it.


~ by Frank on January 6, 2008.

2 Responses to “The 1998 Ice Storm in Quebec”

  1. Trust me when I say that you didn’t miss anything good… 🙂 I’m in Ottawa, and I’ve never seen anything like that storm, nor do I ever hope to!

  2. I experienced a couple ice storms in Champaign, IL. They can be quite nice to look at with an odd feeling like you’re living among lumberjacks. It seems every few minutes you hear wood cracking and a crash accompanied by the tinkling of the ice coming down. And really that’s probably the part I would have been interested in. Seeing it. Being cooped up with the inlaws… not so much.

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