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1998 Ice Storm

January – February 1998

Order of events

4 January 1998

A series of storms containing freezing rain and ice pellets hit Eastern Ontario and parts of Quebec and New Brunswick.

7 January 1998

Governments of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick request aid from the federal government.

8 January 1998

The Canadian Armed Forces launch Operation Recuperation to assist in recovery efforts following the ice storm.

10 January 1998

The series of storms striking Eastern Canada ends.

8 January – 28 February 1998

CAF members deploy across three provinces to help millions of Canadians affected by the devastation of the ice storm.

28 February 1998

Operation Recuperation ends.

Classroom materials

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Lesson plan: 12-18

Humanitarian aid tree

When disaster strikes, Canada’s military can come to the rescue. In the winter of 1998, the CAF responded to the storm of a lifetime — right here at home.

Stories from Operation RECUPERATION

The gathering storm

From 4-10 January 1998, a major ice storm struck parts of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. It was a series of smaller storms that caused a prolonged period of ice pellets and freezing rain in the region. Portions of the St. Lawrence Valley and Quebec’s Eastern Townships received up to 100 mm of ice pellets and freezing rain in a single week, more than double their yearly average.

A trail of devastation

The powerful storm and cold temperatures that followed caused widespread devastation. Countless trees were toppled, power lines snapped and buildings damaged. The storm turned roads into impassable rivers of ice, where downed power lines were covered in ice. Life in large cities like Montreal and Ottawa was largely shut down, with millions left without electricity as power grids were destroyed. The Ice Storm of 1998 injured almost 1,000 people and temporarily displaced more than 600,000. Roughly 35 Canadian deaths were attributed to the storm.

9 Jan 1998, a convoy of troops from Petawawa arriving in Ottawa to assist during the State of Emergency that was declared due to numerous freezing rain storms that had fallen in the area during the previous four days. Photo: Department of National Defence ISC98-002-13.

Requests for help

On 7 January 1998, in the midst of the ice storm, the impacted provinces requested aid from the federal government. Responding to the requests from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, the CAF launched Operation Recuperation the next day. The military helped municipal and provincial authorities in a wide array of recovery efforts. Working with local utility companies, they helped restore damaged electrical towers, and freed power lines that were trapped in centimetres of ice. They also helped their fellow Canadians in other ways, like clearing roads, downed trees and the debris around people’s homes. Canada’s military also provided shelter, food and medical care during the ice storm.

Members of the Canadian Forces reserve knock the heavy ice off of hydro lines in Kemptville, ON. These members were deployed as part of Operation RECUPERATION to aid victims of the January 1998 ice storm in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Photo: Department of National Defence ISC98-015-24.

A massive mission

Operation Recuperation remains the largest domestic troop deployment in Canadian history, and the largest operational deployment since the Korean War. In total, more than 15,000 military personnel deployed to assist in recovery efforts. They were drawn from roughly 200 different units, from across the country and the three branches of the CAF.

Their remarkable determination and tireless efforts brought relief to countless people battered by the storm, until the end of the operation on 28 February 1998.

A CAF member talks with a child while fellow soldiers drain the basement of their house, during Operation RECUPERATION. Photo: Department of National Defence ISC98-014-15.

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