Remembering the Valentine’s Day ice storm of 1990

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s a day that’s frozen in a lot of people’s memories: an ice storm that knocked out power for days. Today is the 30th anniversary of the storm that cost Champaign County $12 million in damages. It started on Valentine’s Day and continued into the night. In the aftermath, some people didn’t have power for more than a week.

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin lived on the west side of the city at the time. She took lots of pictures of what it looked like in her neighborhood. She was without power for a couple days, but says people who lived just blocks down from her were without it for much longer. She ended up using camping equipment and slept in front of her fireplace to stay warm. She still vividly recalls what it was like to walk outside the day after the storm.

“The tornado last May kindof brought back all these memories because it was the same thing, you just walk out of your house and you just look around at the devastation, only you know, unlike a tornado that has a pretty narrow path usually, this was everywhere.”

Trees were cracking and falling over from the weight of the ice. Marlin was so afraid of the falling limbs that she had her two children wear helmets when they went outside. Marlin says one positive from the storm is that it brought people together. She had neighbors over for shared meals while the power was out.

At the worst point in the storm’s clean-up, more than 50,000 people were without power. There are four people on Champaign’s Public Works department today who were there for the 1990 storm. They weren’t available to talk with us today because they worked overnight to clean up our roads from this week’s snow and ice.

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