Ice Storm - 1950

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Ridgetown in Centre of Storm -- Without hydro over 48 hours -- Many rural districts will note be fully serviced for days.

Ridgetown was in the centre of the storm this week. Darkness settled over Ridgetown and district at 6:27 Monday evening. Telephone and hydro lines went down under the heavy weight of one of the severest ice storms ever to hit the district. Telephone service was restored to some sections by eleven o'clock Tuesday morning, but many in the district are still without telephone services. The first electric power was brought into town Wednesday evening at 6:07 when the business area and part of Ward 4 saw the lights come on again. Street lights are still out all over town. Hydro men are still working to restore lights and repair damages. It is hoped to restore service to most of the factories and business places today (Thursday) and to the homes on Friday and Saturday.

Giant Hands Destroy
Tuesday morning those who dared the outdoors saw trees loaded to the ground with branches swaying feebly under weight of half an inch of ice. Trees, branches, hydro and telephone poles were strewn across the streets and sidewalks as if twisted like matches by some mighty giant who had strode through town. Many streets were impassable. Highways and country roads were also obstructed with roofs, trees, hydro and telephone wires hanging like strings. These were only a few of the damages of the storm.

Temperature dropped.
It was Monday noon when a heavy rain started to fall. In the early afternoon the temperature dropped to 30 degrees and then settled to 28 where it remained throughout the night. The rain continued to fall and ice formed rapidly. Within less than three hours the damage began and by 6:26 Monday evening Ridgetown and district was in total blackness. Housewives hurried for candles and coal-oil lamps. Rotarians ate by candle-light. Watchers by the sick held flickering candles.

The town's supply of candles, matches, lanterns, lamps and coal-oil was exhausted in a few hours. Some enterprising persons contrived a light from batteries wired with auto lights.

It was not only a problem of light; many homes are heated with oil furnaces electrically controlled or by coal furnaces stoked by electrically operated stokers. Again, ingenuity came into play. One man attached the motor of the power lawn mower to the furnace blower. It was the lack of power for the stoker which forced the cancellation of school at the Ridgetown District High School.

The Maple Leaf Dairy sent the milk to Chatham to be pasteurized until Blenheim got power again. One restaurant in town that was able to make coffee with gas did a rushing business while other restaurants were unable to use coffee-makers depending on electricity. Restaurants were crowded with people who were unable to cook at home because of the failure to electricity.

Over sixty hydro men rushed into the area were fed at local restaurants.

Destruction was general in the town. Mrs. C.H. Marshall's residence suffered a broken window when a heavy timber missed the corner of the house by inches. The hydro connection was torn from the house and the clothes-line downed.

On Main Street East, the residence of Dr. E.D. Gillis was damaged when a large limb of a tree fell on the sun-porch.

Rural Areas
The rural area has taken quite a beating. Lines running into Rondeau Park are down in many places. Near Clarence Stirling's on the townline, a large hydro transformer was blocking traffic. Poles along the Ridge were down with several poles down at frequent intervals. Highgate residents had to dig out the fallen debris.

The Hydro department has done a superlative job. Six crews of linemen have been sent into the area. The P.D. Bates Company factory started work Wednesday night. More than a quarter of a mile of hydro lines must be rebuilt before the A.J. Sales Co. can start operating. It is expected that this will be Thursday night or Friday morning.

Blenheim Helps
The Ridgetown Dominion was unable to operate until Wednesday night. Meanwhile, editor Russel Schearer of the Blenheim News Tribune offered the use of his machine for news setting and Jack Spilsbury of the Dominion staff worked on the Dominion in Blenheim office Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Filler Up
The one service station which had a hand operated pump did a rushing business. A.E. Srigley hooked up a car to the electric pump and served his customers by motor power. The rear wheel was removed from the car and the axle fastened directly to the gasoline pump.

Chickens Die
Thousands of young chickens hatching at the Cochrane Hatchery died when the heating system failed due to the lack of hydro. Thousands of eggs failed to hatch because of the lack of a supply of heat. Mr. John Cochrane, the proprietor, estimates the loss in the thousands of dollars.

Taken from the Dominion of February 16th, 1950.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.