Montreal Radio Blog

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Great Flood of 1987

I can remember a lot of heat waves, and most weren't as bad as the one Montreal just went through. One exception might be the one Montreal experienced in July of 1987. Maybe it's just me, but I can't recall it ever having been that warm in Montreal. Thermometers were pushing the 40 degree mark, but that might have been with the humidity. Obviously, there was no Internet and no Weather Network back then. Whatever the official stats were, it was excruciatingly hot, and it seemed to go on for at least a week.

The heat led to something that is still talked about by all who lived through it. That was the great Montreal flood of 1987. It happened on July 14th,  23 years ago today. Around 100 mm of rain fell in a few hours. We kind of had a mini version of that a few days ago, but nowhere near on the same scale.

The day started off hot and muggy, but by early afternoon, ominous dark clouds began to cover the island. It seemed to be very localized to Montreal. The storms began in the early afternoon. Wave after wave of storm cells hit for what must have been a good few hours.

So on went the radio, and there was long-time CJAD weatherman Bill Holdament (I’m hoping that was the way his name was spelled!) saying something to the effect of how you'd better tie up your lawn furniture or it might end up in your neighbour's yard. He wasn't kidding...

Montreal's sewer system couldn't keep up with the continuous downpours. Remember the images of the Decarie expressway under water? People lost an awful lot of possessions that day, including a lot of vehicles.

If something like that were to happen today, you'd go online and share your observations, or you might check out the weather channels or tune into one of the many all-news TV channels. Back in 1987, none of those things existed. You had to open your local TV channel and hope they were covering the happenings live. Or you did what most people probably did at the time, especially if you had lost power: you grabbed you transistor radio and listened to live coverage as it happened. I wish I remembered how the day was covered on local radio, but all I can recall are Holdament's comments. It's been a recurrent theme of mine that even today, when disaster strikes, radio is still going to be the best option for news and information. After all, technology becomes pretty basic when power and communications infrastructures go down.

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