When Quebec froze over: Two residents reflect on their time during the 1998 Ice Storm

By Michael Boriero
When Quebec froze over: Two residents reflect on their time during the 1998 Ice Storm
(Photo : Record Archives)

Quebec was plunged into darkness 24 years ago when a devastating ice storm touched down in the province, cutting off access to electricity, heating, and for many, water.

The storm began on Jan. 4, 1998, leaving millions of people without power in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. Some went without power for weeks. Marilyn Cockerline was living on the outskirts of Dunham at the time. She remembers being stuck without any electricity or hot water for 12 days.

“Not everybody was [without power] in the area, it seemed to come on sooner in a lot of municipalities. I remember driving home after dark and I saw the lights on in the houses all the way up the road and when I got to my place it was still black,” said Cockerline.

Although she no longer lives in Quebec — she moved to Vancouver Island many years ago — Cockerline has a vivid memory of the event that pushed everyone back into the Stone Age. She recalls being fortunate enough to have a wood stove, which kept her warm at night.

“I had a wood stove in the house, so that made it possible to stay there. I also had my father, his brother and his wife, they were in their 80s, and I had them come and stay with me because where they were living they didn’t have any power. They were all in Bedford,” she said.

Cockerline was working late at night when the ice storm struck the Eastern Townships. She was working overnight at the hospital in Cowansville. She started to panic when the freezing rain came plummeting down. The next morning she said the roads were just sheets of ice.

“I drove all the way from Cowansville. I took kind of a circuitous route because I couldn’t take the back roads not knowing what they were like, so I went through Dunham and down to Stanbridge East and over and back up to my place,” said Cockerline.
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