Ice Storm Christmas Chez Nous

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

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.

Ice Storm Street View

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.

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1 Response to Ice Storm Christmas Chez Nous

  1. dgilbert says:

    Just to add, from the news, at 7 days, there are still more than 13,000 peo­ple in the city of Toron­to with­out pow­er — not “out in the boonies” … right in Toronto.

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