The oddly mild and dry weather conditions that produced a green Christmas in the northeast are finally exiting. A high of some 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit) was recorded on December 24th in Montreal, making it the warmest Christmas Eve ever.
While many were thankful for the break from winter, allowing for easy seasonal shopping without coats and boots, others hoped in vain for a white Christmas. Kids who received new wheeled toys as gifts had the unusual ability to try them out immediately, rather than store them until the snow melted away in the spring.
Today, three days after Christmas, winter has finally made an appearance. However not with a blanket of white snow, but a combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain. For many of us who were around in 1998, waking to the sound of tick tick tick on your window strikes fear of another ice storm into our hearts.
There is something calming and wonderful about a snowstorm during the week between Christmas and New Years when schools and many businesses are closed and a ‘down day’ or two is good for recharging one’s batteries after the holiday rush. Inches of fresh snow-globe type snow cast a serenity on the city that can be relished during this quiet period.
But an ice storm is a whole different kettle of fish. If you are ever unlucky enough to be caught out in one, the most unpleasant sting of pieces of ice pelting off your face is not soon forgotten. The candy-apple finish that builds up on all surfaces may look lovely, but can be deadly when sliding off the sides of tall buildings like falling window panes or bringing down large tree branches that can no longer support the ice.
A snowstorm is, for the most part, an inconvenience at worst. Everything slows down, or may even come to a halt. But eventually people get to their destinations and life goes on. When the precipitation takes the form of freezing rain, it builds up on electric wires and transformers. This build up grows in weight and often brings down the cable or other electrical apparatus resulting in power losses. In the 1998 storm huge sections of the power grid were rendered unusable and larges swaths of the northeast went for days without electricity.
In the days before Christmas many pointed out that the mild temperatures and lack of snow were exactly what we experienced in December of 1997 prior to the January 1998 ice storm. A little disconcerting to say the least. Stay posted!