This January’s weather in Toronto has been mostly full of either dry, dull, grey, or rainy days, with rare cameo appearances by the sun, reminding me of the Azores and England at this time of the year. There have only been a few days of light snow or gently falling flurries that start out with vigour but soon vanish and I am missing a winter’s good snowfall. Its absence, strangely enough, makes me think about the big ice storm of late-December, 2013. The destruction caused by that storm could still be seen on the trees around us well into spring when new foliage on the remaining limbs accentuated the loss of fallen branches: some trees were lopsided with half their branches gone; other’s survived intact; but most were wounded, maimed, victims of the ice storm. Five years later, it’s hard to see signs of the damage. Nature has a way of healing itself and restoring order – in time.
On the night of the storm, everything suddenly became eerily still and quiet as the hum of electrical power stopped and silent darkness filled the house. Outside, green flashes lit the dark sky as generators blew up; and the sound of branches falling during the night was unnerving. With no internet or phone service we were left without access to news to explain the phenomena we had just witnessed. It wasn’t until morning when we went outside for a walk that we began to understand how widespread and hard the ice storm had hit the city.
We had four days without electricity and our home was a cold tomb, except in the living room where my partner kept a roaring fire going day and night, the heat emanating from the fireplace unable to reach the bedrooms on the second floor, where I could see my breath floating in the cold air. We had to make trips to Tim Horton’s, to buy cartons of hot water and visits to shopping malls to keep warm for part of the day. We endured the cold days and the cold nights until electricity returned late on Christmas Eve, but it took a long time before our house felt warm again.
Yet, despite all the destruction, it was also a time of great beauty as ice encased shrub branches in the garden and all the trees in our neighbourhood, especially nearby Rosetta Gardens which became a magical landscape of fallen trees over the whitest mounts of snow and ice.