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The 1998 ice storm that called for the deployment of 16,000 military personnel

Monday, January 4th 2021, 5:30 am - Approximately half of Quebec's population was left without power.

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In 1998, 16,000 Canadian Forces personnel were deployed to assist with the impacts of this history-worthy ice storm. This was the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since their involvement in the Korean War.

It all started on January 4, 1998, when an upper-level area of low pressure stalled out over the Great Lakes. This caused the warm and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to travel up to the upper St. Lawrence Valley. There was very cold air being pushed into the St. Lawrence plus a High that was locking that energy in place, equalling to an 80 hour-dump of freezing rain.


Millions in southern Quebec and eastern Ontario were pelted with up to 100 millimetres of freezing rain and ice pellets in an ice storm that lasted five days.

Just in Quebec, 30,000 utility poles fell, causing a black out for half their population. On top of 3.5 million Quebecers who lost power, over a million Ontarians, and thousands in the Maritimes were also left in the dark, some for several weeks.


There were 600,000 people who were evacuated from their homes, including those in long-term care facilities and other vulnerable populations.

frozen car

A total of 35 people died as a direct result of the ice storm. This included those who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators that had been brought indoors, trauma from accidents, fires that were ignited by indoor wood-burning stoves left unattended, and hypothermia.

frozen wires

The storm ended up costing an estimated $5.4 billion in insurance claims, utility repairs and lost productivity. Millions of people experienced financial hardship because the icy environment made it impossible to travel to work or their workspace was closed.

To learn more about the science behind this storm, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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