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Ice Storms: Disruption and Preventive Measures

Manali Oak Mar 5, 2019
What is an ice storm? How does it occur? What care should be taken if caught in it? Read on to find out.
An ice storm or winter storm is a form of precipitation that occurs at very cold temperatures. It can also be a rainstorm that occurs when the ground temperature is low to such an extent that the water solidifies to form ice.
Late autumn, early spring or the chilled winters are the most probable periods for ice storms to occur. Due to the anomalous behavior of water, that we are aware of, snow is less dense than water within a definite range of temperatures.
At the temperatures just below freezing and still lower ones, water that can produce a certain amount of rain, can produce about 10 times more snow.
An ice storm is one type of winter storm wherein we experience freezing rain. One of the worst experiences of an ice storm in Canada was the one in January 1998. It had deeply impacted large areas of many cities and disrupted life.

How Life is Disrupted

When a cloud carrying warm water rains above a layer of cold air, an ice storm occurs. If it rains on a cold layer of air, the temperature of the raindrops falls below zero, but the rain might remain in liquid form. When the droplets of water fall on a surface whose temperature is close to the freezing point, they freeze.
The freezing rain shrouds the nature, and roads get canopied by smooth glaze ice and become slippery to walk or drive on. The cover of glaze ice on roads makes them lose friction, resulting in serious road accidents. The freezing of rivers can cause disruption in water transport.
If the trees canopied by ice, fail to bear the weight of snow, their branches can break off, and trees may fall, blocking pathways. Falling trees hinder traffic and also hamper transmission lines. The weight of the snow itself can damage power lines and electric poles.
Studies show that one-fourth of an inch of ice accumulation can lay a weight of 500 pounds per line span. The cover of ice on huge landmasses can disrupt human, animal, and plant life of an entire region.
Sometimes, ice storms bring along strong winds resulting in severe drifting, blinding, and wind chills. Extreme cold that accompanies a winter storm can harm the human body. Cold temperatures can prove lethal for plants and fruit.

If Caught in an Ice Storm...

If you are caught in an ice storm, first off you must find shelter, cover your body and try to stay dry. In case you fail to find any shelter, seek protection from the harsh winds. Light a fire for heat.
If you are caught in a car during a winter storm, stay where you are, make sure the windpipe is not blocked and arrange for little ventilation.
If you are at home, stay safe, seal the cracks, if any, with cloth and cover all the windows because exposing your body to the chilled wind can result in an increased loss of heat from your body causing wind chills. An excessive exposure to cold can negatively impact your health. Freezing of tissues when exposed to cold causes frostbites.
In case a person is seen shivering abnormally and observed experiencing memory loss or drowsiness, check his body temperature urgently. If found below normal, seek medical aid. During an ice storm, there is a chance of problems with blood circulation due to the extreme cold. So remember to exercise and wear loose-fitting clothes.

Predicting their Occurrence

With the advancement in sciences, meteorologists can predict the occurrence of winter storms today. A research shows that freezing rains occur most often throughout the Appalachian Mountains in central North Carolina, West Virginia and New York, as well as in the Columbia River Valley.
In the United States they occur during the months of December and January at the time of sunrise, which is supposed to be the coldest time of the day. In the regions of the Northern hemisphere, winter storms are common in the months of March and April.
Winter storms are like displays of the otherwise mystically white snow throwing tantrums at nature and life. The whites, which otherwise signify purity and peace, become a manifestation of the icy cold destruction, when they come in the form of an ice storm.