34 CBG remembers the 1998 ice storm

A soldier welds a broken piece of metal while another observes atop an armoured vehicle on snowy ground.
On this 20th anniversary, let's take a few moments to commemorate the contribution of the Canadian Armed Forces during the 1998 storm. Photo: Servir

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Public Affairs, 34 Canadian Brigade Group – Servir

It has been 20 years since the greatest peacetime troop deployment in Canadian history. The ice storm that spread from Ottawa to the Maritime Provinces severely impacted the Montérégie region of southern Quebec in January 1998.

From January 4 to 10, 1998, ice and freezing rain showers totaling nearly 100 mm were recorded, double the annual precipitation for some areas. That is why the army deployed in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick on the fourth day of the storm at the request of the federal government. Thus, Operation RECUPERATION was born.

The ice storm in numbers

  • 945 injured
  • 35 deaths
  • 600,000 people temporarily displaced
  • 1.4 million Quebecers without electricity
  • Many roads closed

The contribution of the Canadian Armed Forces

  • 15 generators loaned
  • 11,000 camp beds provided
  • More than 200,000 homes visited in 336 affected municipalities

Captain David: Quick to assist the local population

When the storm struck Quebec, Captain Michel David was the operations officer at the 6th Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (6 R22eR) in Saint-Hyacinthe.

According to Capt David, “The volunteers were exhausted. They had trouble managing (the crisis) properly. In the meantime, security problems had appeared. This was the first official task that the commander agreed to take on, even before the general mobilization of the troops. We provided the equivalent of a platoon.”

Once the army mobilized, the immediate response unit from the 5Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada in Valcartier, arrived in Saint-Hyacinthe.

At the same time, a second accommodation centre was opened at the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe. The 6 R22eR provided an additional platoon in order to assist.

“All the other soldiers not assigned to these two tasks participated in local patrols. We visited local homes with firefighters to encourage people to leave, since the backup heating systems they were using were dangerous. Other teams cleared the main roads for emergency crews,” added Capt David.

For Capt David, the operation was a source of great pride. “We did the job, we didn’t count the hours. We proved the usefulness of the Reserve in domestic operations. A true testimony to the ingenuity of the reservist!”

Warrant Officer Dumont: among the first to deploy on the ground

Warrant Officer Marc Dumont now works at 2nd Canadian Division Headquarters. In 1998, he was a sergeant with 6 R22eR. He was part of the first team deployed in the field and the last to be deactivated, 30 days later.

6 R22eR was the immediate response unit. The majority of the unit was composed of reservists. Some were disaster victims themselves, since they came largely from the Saint-Hyacinthe region, and others were first-line responders.

“What was most striking was seeing armoured vehicles on the streets of Quebec. It was mind-blowing,” recalls WO Dumont. “It looked like a war landscape. It felt strange. After all, it was home.”

WO Dumont noted that the response to the ice storm was a big demonstration of mutual aid. The Canadian Armed Forces, civil authorities, police, and fire departments all joined together to help the victims.

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