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1961: Idaho

If this shot of Idaho’s Palouse region is anything to go by, the western state is certain to be scenic in the wintertime.

Image: Charmar/WC

Image: Charmar/WC

If the records about the ice storm that slammed the region Jan 1 to 3 in 1961 are true, those hills might have been even more sparkly in the sun, thanks to reported accumulations of 25 cm of ice. That’s not a mixture, that’s just ice.

That kind of ice must have caused major damage to power infrastructure. We don’t have total numbers of outages, but this source says power companies in the state were forced to redesign future generators to guard against this kind of weather.

Although the total ice accumulation figures are definitely impressive, this source isn’t super keen on it, pointing out a good chunk of the ice would have coalesced due to days of fog and sub-zero temperatures, rather than coming from the storm itself.

1998: Quebec and Ontario

For people in Canada, this is THE ice storm – one of the worst in North American history.

Over six days, dozens of millimetres of freezing rain fell from Georgian Bay to the Maritimes – 80 hours’ worth in hardest-hit eastern Ontario and Quebec, where Montreal received 100 mm and Ottawa got 85, with maximum reported ice accumulations of 12 cm.

Image: Environment Canada

Image: Environment Canada

The sheer amount of ice – twice as much as previous records set for the area – demolished the power infrastructure of Canada’s most populous provinces. 1,000 transmission towers and 30,000 utility poles toppled beneath the weight of the ice.

And the human cost? At least 25 deaths, many due to hypothermia. A million households in the two provinces were without power, some for weeks later. 100,000 people were forced into shelters.

Image: Deb/Wikimedia Commons

Image: Deb/Wikimedia Commons

To this day, it remains a catastrophic weather event permanently etched into Canada’s cultural memory.


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