When you think of natural disasters that could interrupt the power grid, you probably think of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. However, it was a massive ice storm that left millions of Canadians and some Americans without electricity and heat for a period of days to weeks in 1998.
Known as the Great Ice Storm of 1998 or the North American Ice Storm of 1998, the huge January weather event was really a combination of five smaller ice storms that struck a narrow geographic band that stretched from eastern Ontario to southern Quebec and Nova Scotia and included a section of northern New York and central Maine. Upwards of three inches of ice fell in some places.
The storm’s wrath killed 35, injured 945 and displaced about 600,000 people. Additionally, the resulting widespread power outage affected 1.4 million people in Québec and nearly 240,000 people in eastern Ontario. The total financial cost of the storm is estimated in excess of $5 billion.
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People were without power for anywhere from several days to several weeks, and, in a few instances, several months, as Canadian workers scrambled to reconstruct the power grid in the wake of the damaging ice.