Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Flashback to the Ice Storm of '98

For the past week, many folks in this area have been saying, "I can't believe it's been twenty years since the ice storm." The actual ice storm lasted from January 4 to 10th of 1998. The aftermath was a lot longer for many residents. One afternoon while we were without power, I sat in our family room and hand wrote a little piece about my observations of the storm, as it affected our family. My sister had power and a fax machine so I took it over to her place and faxed it to The Toronto Star to see if they might be interested. Lo and behold, they published it a couple of days later! It was my second published piece. 

All kinds of things have changed in twenty years. I don't think any newspaper would consider a handwritten offering today. What am I talking about? It is now so difficult to get freelance pieces published at all. How the publishing world has changed, with our tiny newspapers, and advertisers all online. 1998 was before laptops and cell phones and Google and Facebook. It was another era and not a bad one either.  

Our family did not endure any real hardship during the ice storm. We were lucky. Here is my humble offering, as it appeared in The Toronto Star on January 13, 1998.

Some good things from the ice storm          

"Here comes the sun, little darling. Here comes the sun, and I say . . . It's all right."

That wonderful old Beatles tune ran through my head when I woke up to sunshine streaming through my bedroom window Saturday morning. Here in ice-bound Ottawa, it really does seem like "it's been a long, cold lonely winter" although we're only at the start of January.

Our family hasn't been hit hard, as have those in Montreal or in rural areas. Compared to many, the past week has presented us with only minor inconveniences. On Thursday we lost our power for five hours and Friday it was out for six hours. During our brief blackouts, as we have struggled with everyday household tasks, I have learned some new lessons and re-learned some old ones.

Electricity is a good thing, but maybe we rely on it too much.

Even a little power is a good thing. My parents are experiencing a partial blackout. They have heat, one TV, some lights and outlets in some rooms, the fridge, and a very weak stove. Mom says that as long as they have a furnace and a fridge they'll be fine.

Knowing someone who has power when you don't is a good thing. On Thursday night we finished cooking dinner in our neighbour's oven.

Winter days really are short! Friday, we decided that since we were stuck inside we would take down the Christmas tree. About 3:30 p.m. I looked around the living room and realized that we were starting to lose light and by 4:30 the room was almost dark. A power outage in summer wouldn't be that bad, would it?

Kids adapt to a power outage just fine if their friends live close by. On the other hand, teens don't find days at home with parents to be very cool.

Boys operate toilets better in lit rather than dark bathrooms - enough said!

Candles are wonderful! You can do a lot of things by candlelight. Our 12-year-old was not thrilled when his dad insisted that he could practise piano the other night. He was happier when he and his friends took the candles to the basement and had a great game of candlelight ping-pong.

Gas is good. Although a gas furnace will not operate in a power outage, a gas hot water heater will. (There's another candlelight activity for you.) Some powerless people with gas fireplaces have ended up with a few families camped out in their living room. A gas barbecue outside is a good idea.

Be prepared. It is a far better thing for every good Canadian to keep a supply of salt, matches, candles, flashlights and batteries than to risk life, limb and lineups driving to Canadian Tire stores in an ice storm.

It's the old trees that go first in an ice storm. I really thought that the small trees would bend first but, no, it's the older, taller ones that have been destroyed by the weight of the ice. It is awful to lie in bed and hear the same sequence of sounds over and over; a tearing, ripping and sometimes snapping sound as the limb separates from the tree, followed by a crash as it hits the car, garage, house or ice-covered snow below it.

There are always people in much worse situations than ourselves. When our power came back on last night we watched the news. As we learned that many in Montreal have lost drinking water as well as power, as we listened to owners of Christmas tree farms and sugar bushes cry, we knew that we were indeed very fortunate. We have absolutely nothing to complain about and much to be grateful for.

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