Motherhouse Offered Shelter During 1998 Ice Storm

Trees and barn covered in ice on the Motherhouse property, Kingston Ontario, January 1998.

An office is converted into an emergency bedroom at Providence Motherhouse, Kingston, Ontario, in January 1998.


This January is the 25th anniversary of the Ice Storm of 1998. During the aftermath of the storm, Providence Motherhouse offered shelter to members of the public and Sisters who stayed for several days between January 8th and January 17th. Let’s look back at an article in the Winter 1998 issue of Providence Pages. (The article has been edited for length and clarity).

In the wake of a vicious ice storm that left much of Kingston without heat and power early in 1998, Providence Motherhouse provided shelter for some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Despite the ferocity of the storm – Kingston was officially declared a disaster area – the boiler room generator at Providence Motherhouse was called into service for only five hours. When Hydro service was restored, it became clear the building should serve as an emergency shelter.

Sr. Jeannette contacted Kingston Mayor Gary Bennett, who decided the Motherhouse should serve as an alternate shelter handling overflow from Hotel Dieu Hospital. In all, 46 people ranging in age from 3 to 85 took advantage of the shelter, joining the 18 Sisters who were also displaced from their city residences.

Sisters slept throughout the house on couches and mattresses, some sleeping in their offices. Mattresses were set up for the public in Providence Centre, which offered better access in terms of facilities such as wash­rooms and the dining room.

Sisters living in the Motherhouse took time to get to know their guests, sharing meals and helping to pass the time while people waited for the power to be restored to their homes.

In conclusion, the Congregational Annals have the following piece of wisdom to share:

January 1998 – Perhaps the lasting lesson of the Big Ice Storm of 98 will be that along with backup systems we all must develop, we must remember that the best backup system of all is a loving caring community.

Providence Motherhouse staff gathering mattresses for makeshift beds, Providence Motherhouse, Kingston, ON.

Emergency shelter in Providence Retreat Centre provided for victims of the ice storm.

Trees covered in ice on the Motherhouse property, Kingston Ontario, January 1998

Icy tree on the Motherhouse property, Kingston Ontario, January 1998.