(Although beautiful to look at, trees snapped under the weight of the ice and some hydro towers tumbled.)
It was considered by many to be the “Storm of the Century“ as it started off innocently at the beginning of January 1998 as a light freezing drizzle. The accumulation of freezing rain over several days created havoc and turmoil as a natural disaster that can still be felt today. The former Goulbourn Township was under a state of emergency for 11 days (ending January 18, 1998). In the end, the storm brought down over 100,000 kilometres of power lines and caused an estimated $2 billion in damages to eastern Ontario and southern Quebec.
Our lives were affected in ways you can’t imagine. With three storm fronts dropping approximately 85mm of freezing rain in the Ottawa area, havoc began. The freezing rain started falling on January 5 continuously until January 10. Hydro was knocked out of January 7th leaving Stittsville and area in darkness. When a State of Emergency was declared for the region on January 8, the Stittsville Emergency Command Centre was launched at the Fire Hall on Stittsville Main.
The Goulbourn Township Fire Department’s phone lines were continuously busy with people needing help – by the end they had responded to 140 emergencies. The firehall was the community connection for everyone – delivering water, firewood and kerosene as these all became essential needs. The Fire Department was helped out with the deliveries by the former Goulbourn Township staff. Water was delivered by the truckload to local farmers for the livestock as many farms experienced frozen pipes.
When Stittsville was in the icy grip, our entire community came to the rescue with suppers organized by volunteers and served at the Stittsville Community Centre (now the Johnny Leroux) in the upstairs hall, drop-in centres were set-up, shared accommodation and clean-up help for residents as the storm spread throughout eastern Ontario and southern Québec. Below is a farmhouse here in eastern Ontario on January 6 and five days later on January 11, 1998.
People were brought together in communities through sharing of resources and donating their time. These good deeds are beyond measure. Every area of our society was impinged upon through our economy, hydro power, employment, land, retail trade, farming and Canada’s precious sugar maple industry.
The Ottawa Citizen gave out certificates as a keepsake for those who survived the storm. T-shirts were sold as a fundraiser. Both reminders of the time when the Ottawa area came to a standstill from the wrath of Mother Nature.
This was a time when the volunteers in our community, the Fire Fighters, former Goulbourn Township staff and everyone else involved during the disorder showed true spirit and came together as one team working side by side to ensure everyone stayed safe. Their donated long hours and work can never be appreciated enough by the people of our town in 1998.
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