One of the darkest periods in Quebec remains for many the ice storm crisis. From January 5 to 9, 1998, several violent ice storms hit the province and left more than a million Quebecers without electricity 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 recorded in Canada.

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A total of 110 millimeters of ice fell over southern Quebec from January 5 to 10, 1998.

When we look at the extent of the damage caused by the ice storm at the time, we understand why the power outages lasted so long. In all and everywhere, nearly 3400 kilometers of lines had to be rebuilt.

More than 1,000 pylons fell under the weight of the ice. Some 17,000 wooden poles were broken. The damage is such that 10,000 people were needed to rebuild: soldiers, subcontractors, Hydro-Quebec employees.

No “baby boom”

Contrary to popular thought, there is no “baby boom” linked to the 1998 ice storm.

The birth rate did not increase that year. On the contrary, just over 75,000 babies were born in 1998, a lower number than the previous 60 years, according to data compiled by the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

In Montérégie, where thousands of Quebecers residing in the famous “black triangle” were plunged into darkness for more than a month, the number of births around nine months after the crisis is among the lowest of all of 1998 in this region. The picture is similar on the Montreal side.

That said, one consequence 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 sequelae. These effects would be due to prenatal maternal stress experienced by women during the crisis.

Cost and Compensation

This weather episode was one of the costliest in the province’s history.

The financial losses for Quebec companies have been estimated at $250 million.

The cost of immediate recovery and reconstruction of structures after the ice storm for Hydro-Québec amounted to $1 billion.

Ten years ago, lawyers and insurance companies were the big winners of the class action brought by Option consommateurs following the 1998 ice storm.

Indeed, the fee agreement signed between Option Consommateurs and the law firm that defended the class action provides that 25% of the sum of $ 52.5 million paid in compensation will be returned to them. “It is normal, they have borne the costs during the 15 years of the appeal. It will be their way of paying themselves,” confirmed Dominique Gervais, lawyer and head of the budget and legal department of Option consommateurs.

It will take until 2014 for 725,000 Quebec households to begin, 16 years after the events, to receive a check for $50.92 by mail, a derisory sum compared to what the Montreal group initially demanded. In 2001, Option consommateurs demanded $75 per day per person, in addition to an amount of $250 for damages.

For a couple with two children who lacked electricity for three weeks, the organization demanded a total of $7,300. In this example, the amount received is therefore 143 times less than what was requested before we negotiated to end this recourse.

– with the collaboration of Denise Proulx, Agence QMI, Magalie Lapointe, Journal de Montréal, and Stéphan Dussault, Journal de Montréal