For many, one of the darkest times in Quebec remains the ice storm crisis. From January 5 to 9, 1998, the province was hit by a series of violent ice storms, leaving more than a million Quebecers without power for several weeks. The crisis will cause more than thirty deaths and the temporary displacement of 600,000 people. This is the worst ice fall on record in Canada.
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A total of 110 millimeters of ice fell over southern Quebec from January 5–10, 1998.
When we look at the extent of the damage caused by that ice storm, we understand why the power outages lasted so long. A total of almost 3,400 kilometers of lines had to be rebuilt.
More than 1,000 pylons collapsed under the weight of the ice. About 17,000 wooden poles were broken. The damage is so severe that it took 10,000 people to rebuild: soldiers, contractors, Hydro-Quebec employees.
No “baby boom”
Contrary to popular belief, there is no “baby boom” associated with the 1998 ice storm.
The birth rate did not increase that year. On the contrary, according to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, just over 75,000 babies were born in 1998, down from the previous 60 years.
In Montérégie, where thousands of Quebecers living in the famous “black triangle” were immersed in darkness for more than a month, the number of births some nine months after the crisis is among the lowest of 1998 in this region. The picture is similar on the Montreal side.
However, one effect of the crisis on “baby ice storms” has been scientifically proven by McGill University’s Ice Storm Project. According to this study, children whose mothers were pregnant in January and February 1998 developed physical, cognitive, and behavioral consequences. These effects would be due to the prenatal maternal stress experienced by women during the crisis.
costs and remuneration
This weather event was one of the costliest in the province’s history.
Financial losses to Quebec businesses have been estimated at $250 million.
Immediate recovery and building reconstruction costs for Hydro-Québec following the ice storm were $1 billion.
A decade ago, lawyers and insurance companies were the big winners in the class action lawsuit brought by Option consommateurs after the 1998 ice storm.
Luc Bélisle/Journal Archive
In fact, the fee agreement signed between Option Consommateurs and the law firm that defended the class action lawsuit provides for them to be reimbursed 25% of the $52.5 million paid in compensation. It is normal that they have borne the costs during the 15 years of recourse. It will be their way of paying themselves,” confirmed Dominique Gervais, lawyer and Head of Budget and Legal at Option consommateurs.
It will take until 2014, 16 years after the events, for 725,000 Quebec households to receive a check in the mail for $50.92, a paltry sum compared to what the Montreal group originally asked for. In 2001, Option Consommateurs claimed $75 per day per person, in addition to $250 in damages.
The organization asked for a total of $7,300 for a couple with two children who were without electricity for three weeks. In this example, the amount received is therefore 143 times less than the amount requested before we negotiated the termination of this recourse.
– in collaboration with Denise Proulx, Agence QMI, Magalie Lapointe, Journal de Montréal, and Stéphan Dussault, Journal de Montréal