The Historic Ice Storm Of ’98 Rolled Into Maine 25 Years Ago
For most adults, there are very few "where were you when...?" moments. Ya' know, the events that, when mentioned, immediately brings you back to where you were and what you were doing.
The most obvious recent one, of course, is September 11th, 2001. Anyone who was old enough to really understand what was going on will likely remember those images for the rest of their lives.
With the exception of 9/11, the only other "where were you...?" moment that most of us have experience was the Ice Storm of 1998.
Can you believe it has been a quart century since that event rolled into the state? For many, it feels like yesterday. Nope! Not even close. To put it perspective, 2023 to 1998 is the same as 1998 to 1973.
The Ice Storm
Many people don't realize the storm went by several names. Most call it "The Ice Storm of '98", but it is also known as the "North American Ice Storm of 1998", the "Great Ice Storm of 1998", and the "January Ice Storm".
According to Wikipedia, the ice storm was actually a series of five consecutive storms that rolled across much of Canada and the northern United States. It started as a low level system that stalled over the Great Lakes. The fully fueled system was then pushed eastward, where it dumped snow and ice rain on thousands of square miles.
While it did its worst to northern New England and Canada, it did affect the more southern states. The storm brought massive amounts of rain (and flooding) to the states along the Appalachian mountains.
Not only did the ice and heavy snow make travel extremely difficult, it also brought down power lines across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. At one point, 700,000 of Maine's 1.2 million (at that time) residents were without power.
Sadly, not everyone survived the storm. Canada saw 28 fatalities. There were 16 fatalities in New England and another 12 deaths caused by the flooding in the south.
Where were you when the storm rolled into Maine?
At the time, I was still in high school and living at home in Houlton. Believe it or not, Aroostook County was not that badly affected by the storm. We got A LOT of sleet that, when it came down in such a massive quantity, drifted like sand in the desert. After enough had fallen, it was like walking on a sandy beach that was always shifting under your feet.
Because we did not get a lot of ice, very few people in my area lost power. However, the shear weight of the sleet and snow caused many roofs to collapse. The flat, and flat-ish, roofed buildings were in the most danger. We lost our local civic center (the Miller Arena) and a country nightclub called Nashville Of The North. Both buildings pancaked.
Like many New England municipal buildings built in the 1950s and 1960s, Houlton High School had a flat roof. There were concerns that the school's roof would collapse. As a result, school was closed for about a week so that snow could be removed. I signed on to be on the work crew and ended up spending several days cutting chunks of packed frozen snow from the roof of the gym.
A look back at the storm
In 2018, for the 20th anniversary of the storm, WMTW did a great look back at the ice storm.
Check it out:
Feel free to share your memories of the storm with us. Send us messages or videos through our app.