Monday, April 27, 2009

April 1984 Ice Storm

The spring of 1984, started out like most prairie springs do. The usual thawing and sprouting of new growth. Easter was late that year - April 22. We'd been having some really beautiful warm spring weather with temps well above the normal of mid teens for highs. In fact, from April 18 - 23 we had daily highs from 20C to 23,5C.

Easter Sunday we decided to have a bar-b-cue and eat outside. We were all enjoying the warmth of the sun and watching tens of thousands of noisy Canada Geese flying north. As you can see by the pics below, the skies were thick with the birds. These shots were both taken that Easter Sunday.

This first one is looking east from my parents yard as the birds were congregating in our neighbours field in the late afternoon:
This was also taken on April 22 around 6:40PM

Little did we know what was headed our way just a few days later. Parts of southern Manitoba - mostly the Pembina Valley - would be hit with a massive ice storm.
The weather started to cool on the 24th and the rain began to fall on Thursday, the 26th. Late that evening, the rain began to turn to freezing rain and ice pellets. By the 27th it was both freezing rain and snow. Historical weather data from enviorment Canada, shows we received 13cm rain on April 26 and 34cm rain plus 5cm snow on April 27 in the Pembina Valley area. Winnipeg received 8cm rain on 26 and 17cm rain with a trace of snow on April 27, but theirs was mostly rain. Parts of the Pembina Valley were without hydro for a few days to a week or more - including my parents farm.

Our power went out in the wee hours of Friday April 27. My dad had transferred close to a thousand bedding plants to his little green house, just a couple of days earlier. He and mom spent part of the night moving the most fragile of the plants back into the house and covering the rest to protect them from the freezing temperatures.

We weren't sure how long the power would be off, so we tried to use the most perishable foods first and open the fridge and freezer as little as possible. My brother (who lives on the same property) went to town to pick up some supplies. The local Co-op was also without power for the first couple of days, so only a few customers were allowed in at a time - with a flashlight - to find the items they needed! Once the power was back on in town, my brother brought us take out fried chicken a couple of times. We also used the bar-b-cue and a small butane stove to heat water for soup, hot chocolate and coffee. Dad said we were "camping"!

Dad had a small gas heater that he used very sparingly - just enough to keep the house from getting to cold and the plants from being damaged. The fumes from the heater could be toxic to the plants if used in excess and we all found ourselves getting headaches if we were exposed for too long.

It is amazing how much you really depend on electricity. This was long before we had computers, but we did enjoy watching TV. Mom, dad and I played a lot of card and board games through that outage. We are creatures of habit though and it is amazing how often we flip a light switch without even thinking. There is a light above the phone in the hall and every time dad went to answer the phone, he would try and turn on the light! Mom and I would here the flick of the old chain switch for the lamp and then a curse and a laugh as dad realized what he had done - again! The same thing happened when he would use the bathroom. It got to be a running joke for us. Mom or I would say something like; "What's wrong dad? Is the light not working?"

Once the power was on in town, my mom and I went in to my aunts to bath and wash our hair. We also took laundry to the local laundry mat.

It was just over seven long and chilly days before the power to our prairie farm was restored. We didn't have to throw out a lot of stuff - thank goodness! Only a few of the bedding plants were lost, but we had to cut down several trees, bushes and shrubs on the property that were just too badly damaged.

On April 28, 1984, I took my old camera out and took some photos of the yard and the damage that the storm had caused. The yard was like a skating rink, so I didn't venture very far. Here are just a few of the shots I took that day:.

The leaves were just coming out on the grape arbour to the south of the house:
Once beautiful Weeping Willows, covered in ice:
Downed power lines and trees all coated in ice
Branches heavy with ice:
An icy sunset:
We have just come through a bitterly long and cold winter this year, not to mention the second worst flood in over 100 years this spring. I really hope that Mother Nature hasn't got any more nasty weather tricks up her sleeve - especially an ice storm! One of those was enough and I am way to attached to electricity and my computer to go without power for more than a day - let alone a week!!


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