Unprecedented "Glitter" Storm Causes Great Havoc

Advocate Misses Publication Last Week

Due to Power Failure caused by Storm


Charles Granger

Charles Granger

(Originally published in the Fishermen's Advocate, February 13, 1942. The article had no by-line, but it was written by Charles Granger, the Advocate's editor. The article was transcribed by Melvin Baker, August 1997)

Damage to Electric Light and Power Company Property Estimated at $25,000.00

Beginning Friday evening, January 27th, and lasting for three days, the worst glitter storm in the history of this district, coated the whole of this peninsula with ice, stripped and damaged bushes, broke trees, covered houses in a sheath of ice inches thick, and completely wrecked the power lines of the Union Electric Light and Power Company, smashing down poles and wires and leaving a mass of tangled wreckage strewn all over from Port Union to Bonavista.

Dirty Weather

Friday, January 27th, began as just another dull day, a bit damp and cold, overcast and disagreeable - typical of the unusual January weather this year had brought. The wind was about North East and the feel of snow was in the air.

In the afternoon of that day snow began to fall and soon a heavy snowstorm was in progress, then the temperature rose a little and heavy sleet took the place of snow. The sleet, driven by a rising wind, stuck fast as it fell and soon clear stinging "glitter" was casing the sleet swollen poles and sagging wires. Before six o'clock the main wires to Catalina had parted and that town was automatically blacked out. Port Union followed suit shortly after eight o'clock and about the same time section after section in Bonavista failed ere the transmission line from Port Union went down to black out the whole district.


The Blackout, caused by the ice snapped lines, would have delighted the heart of the Air Raid Precautions Chief. We hear it wasn't thorough in St. John's. Here the Kings of Darkness held sway and the black princes of wrathy storm strode heavy footed through the land. Nothing could be seen of Port Union, probably the most brilliantly lit town in Newfoundland and one of the most brightly lighted places at night in the world, save a mass of shapeless blackness. On toward Catalina and East Point there were no lights and only the dim indistinct outline of the harbour could be seen beneath the storm-ridden night, with the shadowy masses of anchored ships blurred and ghostly in the driving, freezing rain.

As the night wore on a number of lights appeared, showing yellow and dim, as long unused lamps were lighted or candlelight wavered from saucers.


Meanwhile the ice was forming everywhere. Ice from 5 to 6 inches in diameter was a common sight on electric and telephone wires. The poles were cased in thick armour, the wind freshened through the night and then the poles and trees began to fall.

Saturday morning, as a sickly dawn filtered through the banks of dripping clouds, the damage could be seen. On Sunday it was worse. Whole tracts of trees were bent over with the tops touching the ground. Many were stripped and broken. Gardens that flourished valuable and old trees, the pride of their owners and the community, were stripped of their pride. Thick bushes and stout trees were flattened to the ground with the tremendous weight of ice. The streets were a litter of broken poles and twisted wires. Electric light and telephone poles were strewn everywhere, broken with the unnatural weight of clinging ice. Ships in the harbour were cased in a white translucent shroud that somehow called to mind Coleridge's lines:

"And then came both mist and snow

And it grew wondrous cauld,

And ice mast high came floating by

As green as emerald."

This ice was white, but the ghostly atmosphere was there. This was particularly noticeable when one looked at a line of bare white poles, stark and naked against a grey sky, or heard in the night a swaying pole drag an ice-knobbed wire across the crusted snowbanks.


On the other hand evergreens and bent junipers, fantastically decorated, when lit by a stray sunbeam, presented a scene of rare beauty seldom seen in massed, superb splendour, and houses looked like fancy palaces.


Telephone lines were down, as were the Railway telegraph lines, wireless aerials were broken and with the loss of power radios could not operate, save a very few battery sets, and these were the only sources of news. The great majority of people were out of touch with the outside world. The progress of the war and the extent of the storm were unknown and in many ways the communities dropped back to the conditions existing forty years ago. For the first time since the war started local news took precedence over foreign.

"Advocate" Misses Issue

During the thirty-two years since it was first published, the Advocate has rarely missed an issue. However, with the lack of power the Advocate was forced to miss publication last week as the Advocate office depends on electricity both for the machines and text.

Work on the Trading Co.'s plant was curtailed. Elevators could not be operated; the electrically operated fans in the "drier" were idle, and the large department store was forced to close at dark. All over the district there was a run on lamps, oil and wicks.


The damages are extensive. The Electric Light and Power Company stands to lose between $20,000 and $25,000.

From Port Union to East Point there are 73 poles down. In Bonavista 36. In Little Catalina over fifty. The transmission line to Elliston is stripped. The transmission across country to Bonavista is stripped. There are 74 poles down between here and Paradise, while those still standing are stripped of crossarms and wires almost completely. It has been estimated that about 150 poles are down or out of commission over the entire transmission line between here and Bonavista.

The telephone lines, the property of Posts and Telegraphs, are wrecked completely, while the Railway Telegraphs line from Trinity East to Bonavista was down.


Already the Electric Company, under the supervision of the manager, Mr. Aaron Bailey, has made surprising strides towards effecting repairs.

When the extent of the damage was first seen many people thought that it would be months, before the power would be available outside the immediate vicinity of Port Union. It is gratifying to report, however, that at the time of writing, progress beyond all expectations has been made. The power was turned on in Port Union Monday evening. In Catalina the lights have been on as far as Reids these past two or three days, with good prospects of having the power as far as Elliott's premises this evening. In Bonavista most of the damage has been repaired and there are gangs working on both ends of the transmission line to that place. And it is said that clean up work is underway in Elliston and Little Catalina. Weather will play a large part as regards the time when these places will be lighted. Some of the repairs of necessity is temporary and much of the line will have to be gone over during the coming summer.

The repairs here are under the direction of Mr. Aaron Bailey, Manager of the Company and the Company's staff, Messrs. Lloyd Courage, Zeb Russell, Tom Russell and Don Tremblett. There are two gangs in Catalina under Messrs. Joe Manuel and Tom King. In Bonavista the work is under the management of Mr. Alec Tremblett, the Company's representative there.

The railway telegraph system is in operation again. The section foreman, with additional help, effected immediate repairs. The telephone lines in this vicinity have not been repaired, but wreckage was cleared up immediately by Messrs. Albert Haynes and George Haynes.

Apart from the damage to property that can be measured in dollars and cents, there is the pitiful tragedy of damaged gardens, stripped and broken trees - trees planted years ago and prized by their possessors. These damages cannot be repaired and it will take a generation or more for beautiful trees to replace those destroyed by the ice.

Unusual Phenomenon

Such a lengthy 'glitter" storm is unusual. Only at a particular temperature can this silver thaw take place. It is rain at freezing temperature. Usually such a storm lasts only a few hours. In this case the peculiar circumstances continued for three days - in fact all through the week glitter fell intermittently. The oldest inhabitant can remember nothing like it and the chances are it will not happen again during the lifetime of this generation.

Flood in City

Unusual weather was not confined to this district. In St. John's there was a severe rain storm on January 27th and as a result the Gas Plant and the Power Station at Petty Hr. were closed down temporarily. A veritable torrent flowed down from the higher levels between Patrick and Leslie Streets. Opposite Victoria Park the street car lines were buried under two feet or more of silt. Rubbish and debris in large quantities were carried down in the town by the floods. Alexander and other streets were badly washed out. A jam of ice and debris in the basin below Long Bridge crushed the schooner Julia Johnson under Mudge's wharf. Long Bridge itself gave way to the pent up torrent and its surrounding fields, etc., were flooded. O'Brien's Bridge, near Camp Alexander, was submerged and workers at the base were sent away. A number of motor cars were stalled in the flooded streets and it is said a dory was used in one place on Water Street. In the western part of the country snow storms were prevalent.

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