Ice Storm of 1998

On Sunday night January 4, 1998 the North Country of New York State started to get an ice storm. By Tuesday morning it was bad enough to have taken down my wire antenna. It kept drizzling rain with temperatures just below freezing until Saturday. We lost electric power early Wednesday morning -- we were lucky, we lost it for only 5½ days. By Saturday our neighbors came over to help us clear the driveway enough so that we could get a car out. We weren't allowed to travel, but I did go to Potsdam several days to help the Red Cross at the communication center. It was set up by Clarkson and its amateur radio station K2CC. Amateur radio was the only communications over a wide area of the North Country to many locations for over a week. Read e-mail messages to our children for a more complete account.

Taken with a Sony Camcorder Thursday January 8, 1998


Front of the house

West in front of garage. That was a maple tree.

Back of the house

About ¾ inch of ice on a tree branch in the driveway

Photographs taken Saturday January 10, 1998*

(After some trees were cut)


Driveway toward Bagdad Road

The RV parked near Bagdad Road

One of those branches is on the house

Back of the house

Looking toward the garden
*These were taken with Seattle File Works film and processing. They really messed up the colors. (Never again!) I did my best to get correct them.

Before and After

Driveway toward Bagdad Road
Front of the House
Back of the House
Toward the Garden

This is a random shot of the backwoods. Many, many trees broken and/or bent over.
It is difficult to walk almost anywhere in the backwoods.

Day-by-Day E-Mail Account During the Ice Storm

We had no electric power but we did have a working telephone and a notebook computer. We also had no local internet provider but the long distance phones were up much of the time. The following messages were sent to Beth and Mich, Criss and Robert, Cindy and John, Doug and Sue via our AT&T internet connection in Syracuse.

From Mom and Dad: Thu Jan 08 13:01:38 1998
Hi all -- I don't know what you have heard, but we are OK. It has been freezing rain here since Sunday night. Now (Thursday) it is 30 degrees and has been that way and raining since 8pm yesterday. Every few minutes there is a crash of another tree down or loosing limbs. We have no electricity and probably will not for at least another day. At this minute we have the RV generator running and are watching the Weather Channel, running the fan so that down stairs it isn't cold while upstairs it is 80, and getting the refrig and freezer cooled down.
   There is a state of emergency all over St. Lawrence county.
   The lawn is now a sea of trees and branches. We will have a new landscape when this is all over.
   I guess that is it for now. We are better off than most around here.
   I'll keep you informed.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Fri Jan 09 12:47:28 1998
Hi - Well we have been without power now for more than 32 hours. The temperature is still below freezing and it is lightly raining. The weather man says that it should get above freezing for a few hours this afternoon. That really won't help much. Tomorrow will still be near freezing.
   There is no power in Potsdam yet but villages north do have power. So maybe by tomorrow Potsdam will get on and then who know about us.
   We are doing fine. We ran the generator about 4.5 hours yesterday to keep the freezer happy. We watched skating on TV. Today we will do about the same with power this afternoon near supper time and then for the skating this evening.
   We still have water and the two stoves are keeping us warm.
   The yard is a disaster. As of this morning we now have to chain saw before we can even leave the driveway. Several maples across the driveway. The amount of clean up will be tremendous, bue we can work at that slowly this spring.
   I guess that is all for now. Please reply to this since I am sending this via ATT. The telephone to Syracuse is OK and of course they have power.
   Stay warm.
Love, Dad

From Mom and Dad: Fri Jan 09 16:23:40 1998
Hi -- I took some video pictures with the broken camcorder -- so please ignore the "snow". I have not learned how to use the Snappy well enough but attached are some low resolutions pictures. I had trouble with long shots.
   The pictures are of a branch up close with about 3/4 in of ice on a small twig; the broken maple tree over the place I back out of the garage; a shot of the driveway showing some of the junk and my broken antenna wire -- it is much worse than it appears in the pictures. I will try to do better for some more shots later.
   The temp is just above 32 now but it is 4pm so it won't do much good, and tomorrow will be cooler, but the rain should be stopped.
Love --Dad

From Mom and Dad: Sat Jan 10 15:34:29 1998
Hi all -- Well today we are much better off than 24 hours ago. It is now about 3:30 -- yesterday we turned on the generator to charge the freezer and watch golf. We turned on the DSS, tuned to ESPN and saw it for about 5 minutes until the ice reduced the signal level to less than 15. But we did have the RV dish and we used that yesterday too.
   In the afternoon it did get to about 33 degrees but did no good, and fell blow freezing. It then rained a little and the trees started to fall again about one every 10 minutes. This continued until about midnight when it calmed down. So we slept for a while. About 5am I woke up and heard ice coming down but not too many branches. It had gotten to 33 deg again and was rising. More trees had fallen on the electrical line. So I went out to see what I could do when Glenn and Gail Scott and their daughters arrived. Then Marshall and Barbara arrived, then Jim and Sue and their kids. The temperature was about 38 and the ice was falling, and then the sun came out. So with all that help we cleared the wires, all of the driveway, and Jim came over with a bulldoze bland on his big tractor and scrapped the ice piles out of the driveway. It took him more than an hour. We have been very luck with the RV (just one broken window). Many limbs came down from the maple tree near the road, and I assume that some hit is but it appears to be fine.
   So we are now able to get out, and the pines are quite clear. The maples are still pretty ice covered. And right now we are watching ESPN on the regular dish. BTW it is raining in Carlsbad, so I assume it is also raining on Marika.
   There are about 1000 people in Maxy Hall at Potsdam State. The governor even visited them about noon. Ft. Drum has brought generators so we have the two radio stations up. And they are flying helicopters all over to help NiMo. There is some hope that Potsdam will have power in a couple of days. The Scotts did a grocery/gas/kerosene run. They brought us a gallon of kerosene so we can now use our oil lamp. They also just skidded over about 25 gals of water to flush the toilets.
   So in general, we are dong well. Cooking on the wood stoves is fine. I didn't get any new pictures because of all of the activity. Maybe tomorrow.
   I will get this sent now.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Sat Jan 10 15:46:47 1998
To: Doug Bray
Hi -- Thanks for the message.
At 03:11 AM 1/10/98 +0000, you wrote:
>Thanks for the updates and the pictures.
   The pictures were not very good because the light level was low. The Canon CamCorder was to come Thursday, so I guess is sitting at UPS in Potsdam.
>And how about gas for the generator?
   The generator is very efficient. The RV has about 1/2 tank and after about 10 hours of running it has hardly changed. So we are fine there.
>I have heard about them giving out bottled water.
   We still have water pressure and have 4 gallons of water in jugs. Now that we have Scotts water we will not flush and toilets with our running water. So we really are in good shape.
>I will come up as soon as its possible to help with the clean up of the driveway and other things that need it now.
   Well we are really in good shape. When Spring comes we will need help. But we really don't need help now. Thanks!
>I hope you get power soon.
   So do we.
>Be very careful outside.
   Yes there was a lot of limbs and ice coming down. I had to run a few times. But all seems better now.
   Thanks for the nice message.
Love Dad

From Mom and Dad: Sun Jan 11 15:24:19 1998
Hello All -- Today has been calm. The temp is hanging around +-25. Tonight is to be 10, so we put in all of the window insulators, and brought in a bigger wood pile. The freezer is up to about 28 so we have to run it somewhat more.
   We are now allowed to go to town for supplies. I worked on the radio at Potsdam State for about 2.5 hours. It is a real zoo there. The amateurs have set up communications at 4 locations for the Red Cross. Clarkson has opened a closed building to be nerve center and to feed and sleep some of the electric crews. At Potsdam I was relaying messages to Red Cross Headquarters (it is too small for the nerve center). Mostly trying to find people at the shelter.
   I stopped at the Big M. One takes their own flashlight. Some of Potsdam now has power, including White's Hardware. Down our road we have the feed line down on a string of about 10 poles near the Collin's -- at the start of Bagdad Rd.
   So all is fine with a cold night coming.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Mon Jan 12 13:53:54 1998
Hello All -- Not much new here. Last night it got down to about 2 and is now up to 22 and sunny. It should not get lower tonight and then get above freezing tomorrow with snow. I took some more video's but really not much to show you until you can see it on the TV.
   More of Potsdam has power, but not all by any means. We went shopping to get a few things. You do that by taking your flashlight with you and wait for an escort. We need a new wick for the kerosene lamp, but there are none around.
   We stopped to see if we could pick up our mail, but the post office was not open. Probably they won't be until there is power.
   The good news on our power is that Ft. Drum people went up out road cutting fallen trees, and the TV cable company was working on their lines. The ones from the tower near us to Potsdam. So when Potsdam gets power there will be pressure to get the TV cable back on.
   I guess that is it for now.
   We hope that Beth's flu is better, and that Mich is over his.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Tue Jan 13 12:08:57 1998
Hi all -- Thank you all for your replies.
   Today the temperature is above freezing since about 3am and will stay that way until about 4pm. There is a weather event of snow squalls with 30-40 mph winds and then getting cold down to about 0 tonight.
   Today we took advantage of the melt and have collected about 40 gals of water from the eaves. So we have plenty of water for flushing toilets now. Also, we have a small tree top lying on the porch roof. It has been held up by the branches so in the wind it has been making noise. I used the pole saw from the bathroom off the balcony window and sawed all of the branches so now it is just resting on the roof with a big bed of ice.
   No much new to report. Potsdam has lots of power now and I would guess that Clarkson will get power today. I would expect that we will see some power crews soon.
   So all is fine here. As one guy said this is just a inconvenience (if things stay this way).
Love to All -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Tue Jan 13 18:04:47 1998
Hello All -- You can stop worrying about us. We have POWER. We got it about 1pm.
   When they were checking the lines before they put on power, they were about to cut Glenn Scott's father's line because it had pulled away from the house. Glenn caught him in time and told him that his father repairs all of local NiMo auto starters and generators. So the guy said is that right -- Glenn said yes. So the guy said "OK I can't fix it but let me look at it". Then he said do you have a ladder. The guy put the wire back up. Just as Glenn was telling that a NiMo pickup truck pulled up with a generator to be fixed. They said it could be as much as 3 months for houses with the wires to the house down!
   It is now 2:30 but I won't be sending this right now because I just heard on the amateur radio that ALL phone lines out of this area are down. Someone cut a fiber line near Watertown.
   I will send this as soon as I can. I will be sending more tomorrow.
   It is now 6 PM and the lines are back up.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Tue Jan 13 18:13:39 1998
To: Doug Bray
Hi -- As you see from the last message, all is well here. I am doing amateur radio duty by listening on the local freq and the Lion Mt repeater in Clinton county for any possible traffic.
> In the paper Sunday, it mentioned that 6 of the main power towers were knocked down and that NiMo was estimating they needed to replace 10,000 poles throughout the region. The ice storm several years ago in the Albany area only needed 500. Where do they get them all from?
   Yes several big towers were the problem getting Potsdam up.
>Other than a new kerosene wick is there anything else you guys need and cannot get?
   We are all OK.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Wed Jan 14 16:13:32 1998
Hi all -- We have now had power for more than 24 hours, with no interruptions. So I guess that all is well -- famous last words.
   The temperature is cold -- below 0 last night high around 12 and now (4pm) it is 7 and going down to -10. That has to be terrible for those without heat.
   I just got back from duty with the Red Cross. I worked about 6 hours. We were helping the food delivery trucks get the correct amount of food for the shelters, getting a chain saw, informing shelters how the generators were getting there, calling for fuel delivery to a home without propane, electricity and phone, calling an ambulance, etc. The Army is taking generators from farm to farm for about 2.5 hours each to allow for milking.
   Otherwise all is pretty normal here at the house. We got our first mail delivery today but it was mostly junk mail that would have been delivered Monday.
   I guess thats it from here now.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Thu Jan 15 16:26:02 1998
Hello -- Well now it is snowing, and doing it heavily. We are expecting 4 to 8 inches tonight. I have been listening to the scanner and the Sheriff is reporting lots of accidents and some power lines down again. Some of the guys coming back from Red Cross assignments at shelters etc report slow traffic.
   We are still cozy and hope that we will stay that way. I put in only about 4 hours at the radio today. Some of the shelters are closing down or have a reduced number of people so the need for food delivery is less. That has been a lot of our traffic. Today for lunch we had macaroni and cheese which was delivered heated in a plastic bag. Very strange to serve from a plastic bag but it was not bad.
   Our lights just flickered twice -- Hummm.
   Not much more to report. So tomorrow looks like getting out of the driveway will be out problem. Lets hope thats all. The scanner just told me that the village of Lisbon has just lost power, as well as power to the 911 center in Canton -- Woops.
   Look for tomorrows report.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Fri Jan 16 17:08:28 1998
Hi all -- Today is cold and snowy. We got about 8 to 10 inches of snow over night. There didn't seem to be any power trouble around out area. The power flickering last night was a 115KV line (major feed) down but it didn't bother us and was back up in a couple of hours.
   I had to snowblow the driveway. I worked at the Red Cross about 5 hours again. The traffic is now much more about getting supplies and doing damage assessment rather than food. However new communications was set up in Russell, so that means that there are still many people without power. NiMo figures that now about 1/2 the power is restored.
   So we are still cozy and OK. One of these days we will have to get to the store but probably not until the first of the week.
   Cindy's area was getting freezing rain last night but I think that has moved on. We sure hope so.
   Another report tomorrow.
Love -- Dad

From Mom and Dad: Sat Jan 17 16:32:42 1998
Hi -- Things are getting pretty boring around here. Today it is pretty cold and a little snowy. The temperatures are just hovering around 10-15.
   The only excitement was that we lost power for about 45 minutes. It was all of the Potsdam area, so I figure it was some re-arrangement of the substation that was destroyed.
   I didn't work at the Red Cross today. They brought in two amateurs from the Albany area to give us a rest. The phones are up and down all over. Most of the radio traffic is because one of the centers can't reach another. They was some traffic about a family they found that was pretty badly off. They got the Fire Department to get them some food. A NiMo truck was near them when the Red Cross found them so they gave them snacks they had in their truck.
   This morning I still couldn't get any internet from our local provider and I couldn't get a good line to Syracuse. Yesterday when I called Syracuse the baud rate was 9600. So we are still in phone trouble, but our phone always works -- just not too well sometimes.
   I guess that is it for now. We are watching the golf from Palm Springs. Too bad about those CA types with all that nice weather :-)
Love -- Dad

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