The University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia


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Overhead wires (Vancouver, BC)

1998 Ice Storm

The 1998 Ice Storm affected Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and parts of the northeastern United States with waves of freezing rain. This six day storm began on January 4. This severe weather is reported to have caused 30 deaths and cost Canadian governments $1.7 billion.

Our research team collected articles on infrastructure failure interdependencies (IFIs) caused by power outages from the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen. We validated our database results by comparing our information with the Quebec government’s Nicolet Commission report.

Our analysis of the 1998 Ice Storm indicated that while IFIs related to power outages had impacts in eleven critical infrastructure sectors, five of these IFIs were particularly disruptive. These five serious IFIs were identified in our research as follows: 1) major employers in the Montreal region were forced to suspend operations for up to two weeks; 2) emergency services were hindered by communication problems; 3) fuel shortages resulted from the temporary closure of refineries; 4) businesses had low inventories of critical supplies such as candles and batteries; and 5) Hydro Quebec requested voluntary business closures to facilitate quicker repairs to damaged infrastructure.