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Communicating During a Crisis

In times of crisis like this one, radio was the only way of keeping abreast of what was happening in real time. In the Montérégie region, radio station Z-104 informed the general public about the situation, as did CKAC in Montreal. Since Z-104’s antenna was at the top of Mount Saint-Grégoire, someone had to climb the icy slope to fill up the gasoline generator so that broadcasts could continue. Around the same time, Radio-Canada/CBC established Radio services Montérégie at 95.1 FM, which broadcast information continuously on the emergency. Although things were starting to get back to normal in Montreal around this time, people realized that this was not the case in the Montérégie region. Radio-Canada’s service, which went on the air in just 48 hours, provided up-to-the-minute information on the number of remaining places in shelters and where to get firewood, and sometimes liaised with the authorities in critical situations.

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Few newspapers managed to continue publishing. Le Canada-Français provided almost exclusive coverage of the event in the region, but conditions were difficult for reporters and photographers. Some had to sleep at the office. They had to travel constantly for their articles, so they were in an ideal position to attest to how difficult it was to get around by car in the region, which often involved long detours. Another problem was getting photos developed, which required a trip to Brossard. Nevertheless, it was an exciting and stimulating month, which provided photographers covering the event with the opportunity to get remarkable photos.

Inhabitants of the Montérégie region were all the more isolated because the telephone lines were not working, not only to Montreal but within the region’s municipalities and villages themselves. Bell employees, who were housed at Auberge Harris, toiled non-stop to remedy the situation. All too often, the problem was that people saw the lines hanging down in the street, mistook them for dead power lines, and cut them down and hauled them off, even though the lines were still working and transmitting signals. The cellular service was also plagued with problems, since the antenna that retransmitted the cell signals was powered by a generator. The gasoline shortage was also affecting communications.