It started with mild temperatures and just a few drops of rain -- but soon that rain began to freeze.

And it didn't stop.

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters ever in Canada - an ice storm that left millions of Quebecers in the dark and cold, some for as long as a month.

Ice-covered trees crashed down on power lines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The ice storm of ‘98 was actually three ice storms, back to back to back; a train of freezing rain storms that rolled through huge swaths of Quebec and Ontario for almost a week.

The weight of the ice damaged millions of trees, toppling 1,000 electrical transmission towers and destroying 17,000 Hydro-Quebec utility poles.

“The ‘98 ice storm is the weather phenomenon that affected more people than any other in Canadian history,” said Alexandre Parent, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

At its peak, the storm plunged half the province – 3,000,000 Quebecers – into cold and darkness, some for weeks on end.

Especially hard-hit were those who lived in the so-called ‘Triangle of Darkness’ south of Montreal between Saint- Hyacinthe, Granby and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

The 'Triangle of Darkness' was hardest hit.

“The first three days were the hardest period and after that, we decided we needed to make changes, so we went around setting up the house so it was livable,” said Saint-Zotique resident Jeff Malboeuf.

The retired mechanic rigged up his house so his family could stay put and ride out the storm.

Jeff Malboeuf used a little ingenuity to keep his family warm with this Coleman stove.

He fixed up an old Coleman propane stove he was set to throw away before the storm hit. Because it didn't get tossed, his family was able to cook and heat water with it.

“I installed the furnace… cut a hole in the top and I ran a motorcycle coolant fan to blow the hot air through the house. And I had a series of batteries and I ran wires upstairs for lights,” he said.

His family and three of his in-laws rode out the storm without power for a month, making do with what they had.

“We played board games, we played cards. You just change your life around,” he said.

Another family, the Bradleys, dines on take-out by the fireplace in Montreal on Thursday, January 8, 1998, spending a fourth day without electricity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robert Galbraith

Malboeuf remembers firefighters showing up at their door one day to make sure they were coping.

“(My daughter) answered the door in shorts and t-shirt and the fireman looked at her and said, ‘Well, I guess you people are alright!’” he recalled.

The family now has an electric furnace, but never threw out that Coleman stove – just in case.

Many families were not as well able to ride out the storm. About 600,000 Quebecers had to leave their homes, seeking warmth and comfort in 50 shelters across the province or with family and friends.