The Sleet Storm of 1956

It was late Friday night, January 6, 1956, and the rain had been falling for hours.  Then the temperature fell dramatically.  Wet snow and ice began building up on utility lines making them look more like huge sausages, up to three inches in diameter.  Massive icicles hung from the lines six to eight inches long.  Poles snapped under the strain, tumbling like dominoes, one after the other.

It was the worst natural disaster in Island Tel history.  All utilities suffered almost complete collapse.  Thousands of Island homes went without electrical power, telephone, heat and water for weeks.  Summerside was hit particularly hard.  Daily bulletins were issued by the town with assistance from the Red Cross Disaster Service.  Volunteers visited home to home and when needed, evacuated residents from unheated dwellings.

Total damage suffered by power and telephone utilities was estimated to be a staggering figure of $2 million, of which half a million was in Summerside alone.  The mural depicts the scene at this very location in the aftermath of the storm.

Sleet Storm Poem   (Taken from “Voices of the Island” by Walter C. Auld)

It started to rain in the morning and set in to freeze at noon

By night each pole was ice-coated, each wire was a gay festoon.

A wind blew up from the northeast catching the wire with its swing,

And our hearts beat sad within us – we knew what the dawn would bring!

Linemen were given instructions.  They each had their work to do

All were to rush to the trouble – “Service depends on you!”

Location: The building at the southeast corner of Water and Queen Streets

Facts:  Mural # 4.  Erected 1999 with sponsorship by Island Tel.

 

Mural Artist: Greg Garand