We were lucky. We were without power for roughly 6 hours (and asleep for most of it). Many people here in Ontario (and the North Eastern portion of North America) had a Christmas without power and were without power for several days. Some are still, apparently, without power.
Ice Tree in my Yard
Ice storms are beautiful as long as you are warm and cozy. The picture here is of the town mandated, builder planted tree in my yard. Every house has “a tree” and all the trees on my street look like this. Many older trees have been dropping limbs. A friend had their porch crushed and my business partner had many branches fall on their car causing minor damage.
But the ice-coated tree is beautiful. We’re lucky here to have fairly newly planted trees that can take the ice load fairly well. Some of the trees in our neighborhood date back to when it was built (about ten years). My tree, in this picture, is a replacement that is a few years younger (the original tree didn’t do so well).
My business partner was without power for 3 days and he and his family went to live with his in-laws for the duration. During this outage, news of a recent study by Lloyds of London caught my attention. It detailed Lloyds assessment that a space weather event similar to the 1859 “Carrington Event” happening now would leave parts of North America without power for more than a year. While not an ice storm, this analysis highlights the fragility of our electrical grid and the negligence of its maintenance.
My Street after the Ice Storm
My thoughts were drawn to this conclusion by the reports that the worst hit areas in this ice storm were urban. Many homes and apartment buildings in Toronto, Richmond Hill and Kingston were without power for several days.
I fundamentally understand the problem of rural power distribution. Long distances covered with overhead wires that can be snapped by fallen trees or even the wire’s own weight. Each break taking time to fix and each such break only affecting a few homes. Fixing the aftermath of the Quebec Ice Storm of 1998 took time because the sheer number of individual fixes were legion.
According to news reports, this is not the case now. Many of the disruptions were blown or arcing transformers. Items in the power network simply unable to handle the stress themselves, not of nature falling down upon them. There is a real risk of another “Carrington Event” and that risk leads to some apocalyptic forecasts by an organization whose very existence is to examine risk.