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Warm Memories of Ice

Story ID:3398
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Saint John New Brunswick Canada
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Warm Memories of Ice

Warm Memories of Ice

In 1998, one of the worse ice storms in history
struck Montreal, Quebes, Ottawa, New Hampshire,
Vermont, Maine, and New Brunswick.

I lived in New Brunswick, Canada at that time.
I wrote this story to keep my memories alive.

At the bottom of the story, I will include a
few links to news stories about this ice storm.

Warm Memories of Ice

Saint John, New Brunswick was under attack. A silent killer stalked us. The battle
continued for three days. We remained indoors and watched through frosty windows. Few
people had the courage to wander into the battlefield. The fear of injury kept us huddled
safely inside our their homes

The enemy, a lethal ice storm, fought a steady battle. After days of assault, it
released us from its grasp and slipped quietly away. In its path, it left a world smothered in
sparkling ice. When the clouds parted, I ventured outside to admire winter's deadly magic.
Only those who had braved the assault knew the extent of the damage. The rest of us were
in for a surprise. The city was a land of crystallized beauty, every exposed surface was
coated in several inches of ice.

I needed to see the damage. My car, which had been parked on the street during
storm, was covered with alternating layers of solid ice and ice pellets eight inches thick on
top and a quarter inch thick on the sides. With a hammer and screwdriver, I chiseled around
the edges of my door and started the engine.

It took thirty minutes for the heat to penetrate the windows and roof enough for
me to remove the ice. The section covering the roof was so thick, it slid off in one piece,
hit the sidewalk, and rolled over without breaking.

Once I hard my car free from itís icy grip, I drove by parks littered with limbs and
fallen trees. Trees that survived stood amidst a tangle of stripped branches and sparkled with
reflected sunlight. White scars, where limbs had been torn free, could be seen on every tree, reminders of the battle.

On Mount Pleasant Avenue, where majestic homes hide behind hundred-year-old
trees, I saw the worst of the storm's damage. Lawns lay covered in ice-hardened snow and
cars sat buried in twisted heaps of sheared limbs. The mighty trees had become disfigured
victims of nature's wrath. I watched them shed branches like autumn's leafs. Utility poles
draped their tangled lines to the ground, leaving residents without electricity or phone

I drove slowly and stared at the
destruction all around me. My heart ached for the
wildlife. With everything buried under the ice, they wouldn't be able to reach their food.
I reminded myself to buy a bag of bird seed on my way home.

I pulled my car to the curb and stepped into a changed world. Ice cracked and
snapped beneath my feet. I was assaulted with sounds: chainsaws roared, repair vehicles
growled, and men yelled orders to their co workers. Power crews worked to clear branches
from the lines and repair severed wires.

During occasional breaks in the noise, I heard something else, a sound I knew, but
had not heard in many years. The ice, melted by the warm sun, broke free from small limbs
and cracked on the ground. I heard the pop of larger branches, as they broke and crashed on
the crust-covered lawns below. Higher branches snapped from the weight of the ice,
dropped on the branches below them and fell in a groups, trailing ice crystals behind them.

I stood in a magical world - deadly, but beautiful - and listened to the sounds. I heard
the sound of children. They slid and laughed. Their faces glowed with excitement. For them,
this disaster was an adventure, a new world to explore. Their eyes twinkled with excitement
at each new discovery. They leaped over debris and tumbled down icy slopes, totally
unconcerned with the destruction.

I smiled at their play and remembered my own childhood and a storm we had when I
was a boy of ten or eleven. Through the windows of my parentís house, I watched the storm
wreck my small community. Ice grew thick on the electrical insulators and sparks flashed
brightly. I squealed with excitement each time the wind snapped another ice covered wire.
They laid like threatening snakes on the ice covered ground, twitching in the wind. Boats,
heavy with ice, threatened to sink, as they bounced on the waves in the harbor.

The next morning, the storm over, I explored. Branches, covered in ice, broke and
fell when touched. Stalks of grass poked through the snow like upside down icicles. They
snapped and clattered over the hardened snow when I kicked them. I discovered the hill in
front of my house had been covered with a hard shell of ice over snow, and I ran for my
little red sleigh.

I stood and looked down the slope to the harbor. Sunlight reflected off the icy
surface. I shielded my eyes, pursed my lips, and lowered my sled to the ice. I stretched out
and held myself still. My damp wool mittens froze to the ice. My heart hammered in my
chest. Happy the hard crust held my weight; I smiled, sucked in a deep breath and pushed

I shot down the hill, gained speed, and screamed with pleasure. My hands gripped
the handles tightly, causing my cold fingers to turned white inside my mittens. The metal
runners rattled over the ripples in the ice. The frigid wind made my eyes tear. The cold
turned my cheeks red. My hat blew off and wind whistled past my ears. At top speed, I
leaned into the first turn and slipped to the right. On the second turn, I tipped to the side,
gained control, and ripped down the final slope to the bottom.

My heart continued to hammer in my chest, as I neared the end. I rocked on my sled
to gain the last few feet. I wobbled when I tried to stand. The pounding in my ears slowed,
and I raced back to the top, to do it again. All day I played my solitary game. If I crashed,
my body would bounce over the ice. Iíd lay on my back and wait for a pretend ambulance to
cart me away.

A chunk of ice struck the pavement by my feet and my thoughts returned to the
present. The noises returned, the children played, the men worked, the ice and branches fell.

I kicked a broken limb, climbed into my car and smiled over my childhood memories.

Michael T Smith

Here's a link to a site for info on the ice in Montreal

Thios one takes you to the CBC archives where you
can see videos on the storm

More info here: