Ice Storm Of 1998: Then And Now

Ice Storm Of 1998: Then And Now

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We combed through all the video we have from the Ice Storm of 1998 and caught up with some of the people who were on the front lines as the north country fought to chip free from Mother Nature's icy grip.

The video conjures images of a nuclear winter. Trees and power lines littering the ground and not a car in sight.

"The road's bare. I mean nobody. Far as you can see either way there isn't a car on it," said Dave Sherman, who was with Guilfoyle Ambulance Service in Watertown at the time.

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Ice Storm of 1998.

For the north country, it began in Massena on the morning of January 5 as people awoke to the village encrusted in a sheet of ice.

Over the next few days, freezing rain dragged the ice line southward, cutting of the power for 96 percent of the north country - more than 200,000 people between the three counties.

What was then Niagara Mohawk had to replace more than 8,000 power polls. Many people were without power for weeks. Emergency crews worked around the clock.

Sherman, who was a field supervisor with Guilfoyle Ambulance at the time, recalls what it was like driving into work the first night of the event.

"You had thunder and lightning and then you had transformers blowing. So you had blue pops all over the place. Then tree branches started falling," he said.

Emergency workers came from across the state to help Sherman and other local crews as they dealt with the fallout of the storm.

Many farmers were cut off entirely from the rest of the north country.

"There were farms that did not get power for a month," said Jay Matteson, who was director of the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District during the ice storm.

Despite no power, farmers still had to tend to their animals.

Matteson and others drove every road and went to each farm in the county making sure they had what they needed.

A big part of that was securing and replacing generators.

"The generators that we used, at that time, weren't necessarily meant to run for a week even. They were meant for power going out for a day," said Matteson.

Generators were a common need for everyone, but could be hard to come by. People waited in ridiculous lines to get them.

Along with the ice came rain and record flooding on the Black River. Back then, it was said the river was at water levels only seen once every 500 years.

Many people, like 20 year old Jack Whalen, are too young to remember the ice storm, but Jack's mother Lisa will never forget it.

At 12:15 a.m. on January 8, right in the heart of the storm, Jack was born - just in the nick of time.

"Yea, it was, because we lost power for, like, three weeks after that," said Lisa.

They were in the hospital for more than a week, then stayed at a cousin's house for another three.

"It was just a mess, but we had Jack, so that's all that mattered," said Lisa.

The effects of the storm were felt for years afterward. Including Canada and New England, the storm caused more than $3 billion in damage, toppled millions of trees and caused close to 40 deaths.

If it was the storm of the last century, the north country hasn't seen one top it yet this one.

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