Eastern Townships Ice Storm, 2013

Click thumbnails on left to display photos

During the afternoon and evening of December 21st, 2013, Quebec's Eastern Townships experienced severe icing conditions due to heavy freezing rain.

Hydro-Quebec's power grid soon began sagging beneath the weight of accumulating ice and falling trees and branches and by the wee hours of December 22nd nearly 49,000 customers were without power, most of them in the Eastern Townships (Estrie) and Monteregie regions.

While most households had their power restored by the end of December 27th, our household was among the last thousand or so whose power didn't return until Sunday, the 29th of December, a full week after it went down.

Hydro-Quebec was criticized in some quarters for taking so long to restore the power, but under the circumstances we think the Men in Orange performed admirably.

On our rural municipal road alone there were so many trees down along the four miles serviced by Hydro's lines that it took a major convoy of trucks with their crews more than two days to clear the lines.

Households directly on the road had their power restored early on the 28th, but it took more than a day longer to clear trees off the two-thousand feet of line that climbs the hill to the Hermitage. Fortunately the last four-hundred feet are buried!

The man of the hour was a young fellow who could climb just about anything you could point a finger at. If not for him the delay would have been longer, as even Hydro's skidoos were having trouble negotiating steep, ice-covered Hermit Hill.

Hydro Holiday

Having previously lived quite nicely for ten years without the benefit of electric power, the Hermit household was not exactly at a loss in coping with a week long "Hydro Holiday". As always, the Dutchwest extra large convection heater provided all the BTUs necessary to keep us toasty warm. Meals were also prepared as usual, using, cook's choice, the propane gas range or the Findley wood kitchen stove.

A hole was cut (bashed actually) in the pond ice and wash water was drawn by toboggan to the house and heated on the Findley for washing dishes and taking "bucket baths" in the shower.

The more hardy among us opted to use the good old outhouse behind the cabin, while others elected to flush with pond water. Wimps!

Potable water was another matter. Erring on the side of not contracting Beaver Fever (Giardia), we decided to haul the necessary four or five gallons per day from the nearby village of Ayer's Cliff, whose municipal water system continued operating by virtue of diesel back-up.

That left only the problem of a light source. While the old kerosene lamps are still around, they tend to spew particulate matter into the environment, which can be quite irritating to one's respiratory system. We decided upon using battery-powered electric light instead.

Not Ready for Prime Time?

Now it just so happened that in anticipation of winter power failures, the Hermit had seen fit to put a battery-powered LED light beneath the Christmas tree. This device was un-wrapped a day early and immediately pressed into service. It proved to be such a great light source that eventually the Hermit trudged all the way to Sherbrooke to obtain the last two of these devices on the shelf at a big box store.

Unfortunately, all of these units developed problems, causing them to act flaky at times. Nevertheless, when they worked properly they provided ample light over a large area that was more than adequate for cooking, reading, and just about any other activity requiring a good light source.

Here's hoping that Eveready can iron out the kinks and deliver a stable version of this technology in the near future. In the meantime, their promise of "up to 100 hours of operation" should to be discounted by a factor of ten.