I heard about the ice storm, at first, on the radio. I didn't give it much thought: it's not uncommon for Eastern Ontario to receive freezing rain in late December or early January. I did think that the area that was being covered in this storm was larger than usual, but I didn't feel that there was any cause for alarm.
Besides, I had bigger problems where I was. South Korea was at the height of its economic collapse, and the value of the currency, the won, had plummeted. I was teaching English at a language institute and my director, who had based my pay on the American dollar but paid me in won, found himself paying out more than double the amount that he was used to at the beginning of my contract. On December 31, 1997, instead of receiving my pay, I was told that he couldn't pay me or DW (who was also teaching at the institute), and that he wanted us to leave Korea as soon as possible.
DW and I were in talks with the labour board, and we were trying to find living accommodations (thankfully, our friends, Jason and Jami, came to our rescue and put us up in their spare bedroom, in their apartment).
At the same time, DW and I were teaching privately—illegal, but done by many foreigners—and weren't about to abandon our students and that much-needed, supplemental income.
Later in the day, after I had heard the first report of the ice storm, I sent an e-mail message to my mom, to see if she was okay. Later that evening, she said that there was ice building up on the trees and the roads were slippery, but she and my step father were fine and he was planning to go into work.
Another typical ice storm, I told myself.
|Photo: Monteal Gazette|
DW and I searched the Internet and found stories and images of the storm. We saw images of Ottawa's Centretown, with streets filled with broken branches and Hydro Ottawa crews fixing felled power lines. The thickness of the ice seemed dangerous, at more than a centimetre thick, in some images. As the days went on, we saw that some electrical towers had collapsed under the weight, and power outages from Kingston to Montreal were starting to become dangerous as the days went by.
The ice storm lasted six days but hadn't inconvenienced our parents. My folks never lost power for more than a couple of minutes; the power in my in-laws' neighbourhood was out for only a couple of days.
During our stay, we watched the news as they reported the lasting devastation. Some areas were still without power, as tens of thousands of towers and poles had collapsed under the weight. Ottawa had some scars but, by comparison, had fared better than Montreal and some of the small towns and villages in the path of the storm.
While DW and I missed the storm, we still felt that we were part of it. From the reports, to conversations with our family, to seeing the destruction in the aftermath, the ice storm of 1998 is something that we won't forget.
How about you? Where were you? How did you cope with the storm?