Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
On January 4, 1998, a series of stalled high pressure systems stalled in the mid-west and into Canada. In the east, a high pressure system from Bermuda had stopped the mid-west pressure systems from moving east. The two pressure systems fought against each other and forced warm air from the Gulf of Mexico to funnel itself up through the St. Lawrence Valley. When these pressure systems collided, warm air rose up into the atmosphere, but kept cold air close to the surface of the earth.
The collision of the stalled high pressure systems along with the warm air coming up from the Gulf, caused snow to form but as the snow hit the cold atmosphere below the pressure systems, the snow immediately turned to ice coating everything with thick layers of ice over the next few days.
Power lines were brought down, tree branches snapped and broke under the weight of the ice, power transformers blew up and businesses had to shut down. Canada was hit the hardest but there was also a lot of damage and loss of life, in Northern New York and the upper New England region of the United States, as well. It was a devastating storm that left millions without power. Some only went without power for a week but the harder hit areas went without electricity for up to close to two months.
3.2 million of the 7.4 million people whom live in Quebec, Canada, went without electricity, some for as much as 34 days. 34 deaths were attributed to the ice storm for hypothermia and flooding. The state of Maine had 600,000 people without electricity for as much as 17 days. 5 deaths were reported as a result of the storm. New York State reported that approximately 300,000 people went without electricity, some for as much as 21 days and 9 people had reportedly died due to the storm. 19 percent of Canada’s workforce was without or impeded from going to work. Canada’s dairy and maple syrup industries suffered millions of dollars in losses as well.
Vermont and New Hampshire reported the least damage and deaths of all the places affected by the storm. New Hampshire reported 2 deaths while Vermont had no deaths due to the storm. 140,000 people in New Hampshire went without electricity for up to 8 days and 33,000 people in Vermont lost power for up to 10 days.
The 1998 ice storm was the worst natural disaster to hit Canada and the upper east coast, to date, and has been called “The storm of the century”.