Winter Weather Series: The Danger of Ice Storms

Ice storms, while scenically very beautiful, come at a very high cost in terms of safety and dollars in loss. With the onslaught of some icy weather, I am sharing some suggestions for more safety for the most dangerous type of winter weather, the ice storm, sometimes referred to as “black ice”, because it looks like rain on the ground, but sure does not act like rain! The surfaces may sometimes just look wet, because the rain has frozen on site, making it look “safe” because you are conceiving that it has only rained. When your shoe hits that ice thinking it is only water, you are in for a big surprise fall. Ice storms are so dangerous because of the very matter of the storm. Ice is what snow turns into when you begin to slip. So having one hundred percent of the substance right there just makes it all that more dangerous, indeed. Also the weight of ice makes for another type of danger, as branches and electric wires not being able to beat the added weight–and the possibility of snapping due to that weight. The ice is also as sharp as a knife, cutting wires and branches in a flash. The ice also gets in places no other substances can get because at those freezing temperatures, it can refreeze and remelt. Everytime it does so, it grows and starts a backflow breaking down shingles, gutters and other building surfaces. Driving in an ice storm is always very dangerous, because salt stands no chance of being effective in any ice storm. Sand also gets frozen over sometimes in seconds, also yielding almost no results at obtaining any type of traction. I remember one ice storm where my car was hit by six different people before an attempt of moving it. I was on the ground and the car just spun in a more crooked position. Here are some tips and pointers to assist before, during and after an ice storm. 

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PREPARATION BEFORE AN ICE STORM:

  1. Don’t be fooled by the not too frigid temperatures of the ice storm, as they can be very devastating—on branches, power-lines and your car. Also the high risk of falling can make ice storms a very risky storm.
  2. Make sure your insurance is up to date, and that acts of God are all covered. Proper annual review of your insurance is always an asset, and you should review these with and without your insurance broker to make sure that there are no unpleasant surprises when disaster strikes.
  3. Make sure that you have plenty of salt, sand or supplies in order to make sure than ice does not become a major problem. The last thing you need to have happen is for you or another person slip and slide. Make sure that your insurance covers falls in case of a problem—before the storm.
  4. Make sure that you have plenty of gasoline in your car. Make sure that you have a brush and window scraper. Have safety equipment in the trunk and keep two flashlights, one in the car and once in the trunk. Keep some salt in your trunk. Kitty litter (standard, not clumping) can assist in case of sliding and getting stuck. Keep an ice scraper shovel in the trunk. Have your emergency roadside assistance number ready ahead of time.
  5. Make sure that you automobiles or trucks are not parked on anything but flat surfaces. Parking on hills is very dangerous once the ice storm hits, and you auto can literally start crawling and become very dangerous.
  6. NEVER go up on your roof, even a flat roof, until the ice is completely melted. It is way too dangerous to handle without proper fall prevention equipment, and even then it is still a danger.
  7. Hiring a a snow removal company for the storm or on retainer can be a complete asset. Having them on retainer doubles as you will move up to the top part of their to-do list. Snow removals have proper equipment that is used specifically for ice storms and let the salt do a lot of the melting.
  8. Always have a pair of gloves ready for an ice storm because touching or grabbing a sharp piece or section of ice can cut your skin in a flash of time!
  9. Always have the power company’s and the natural gas company’s emergency reporting phone numbers handy, in case of an emergency.
  10. Do plenty of surplus shopping before the storm. Include plenty of food, bottled water, groceries—food and sundries.
  11. Make sure that your cell phone is properly charged, before any possible outages.
  12. Make sure that you have batteries, flashlights and emergency first aid equipment.

DURING THE ICE STORM:

  1. Pay attention to the latest weather reports and make wise decisions.
  2. Be very careful if you decide to shovel. If injury happens, time can be of essence.
  3. Dress properly, and don’t be fooled by the somewhat temperate conditions of an ice storm. Remember, if you fall and have exposure to the cold, frostbite is a great possibility that you do not want to entertain involvement in. Gloves, boots, and enough clothing to make sure that cold does not become a problem. Three items to pay attention to are:
    • Hypothermia, or lowering of or too low of body temperature. If you feel faint or think a heart condition develops due to being too cold, call 9-1-1 and follow doctors orders.
    • Frostbite, or a local skin or limb being exposed to too cold a temperature that blood flow is cut off to the limb. If it happens call 9-1-1 and follow doctors orders.
  4. Never use your snow blower to remove ice! It is not good on your motor, the blades and you personally risk falling while using it, putting you a very high risk of serious and possibly fatal bodily injury. The blower itself can be “grabbed” by the ice tripling your risk of a serious injury!
  5. Never stand under elevated objects such as gutters, trees and powerlines! The objects are already aggravated at falling due to excess weight, and the ice aggravates cutting objects due to the ice cracking, and the sharpness of that ice breaking.
  6. Always have a pair of gloves ready for an ice storm because touching or grabbing a sharp piece or section of ice can cut your skin in a flash of time!
  7. Never try to pick up objects while walking on ice. The shift in weight can cause a fall in no time!
  8. Never touch downed power lines! Immediately call the electric company’s emergency reporting phone number or 9-1-1. If natural gas is near the line, turn the gas off!
  9. Make sure ice is covered with salt, sand and/or kitty litter. Make sure that you are very careful not to go down due to a fall. Lower back injury is the most prominent way of being injured in any storm.
  10. If you fall, don’t think you can always handle it on your own. If you need medical care, get the proper assistance by qualified individuals. Skipping therapy can mean the difference in living with lifelong conditions–or proper healing.
  11. Never shovel too long. Pay attention to breathing and be properly clothed. If you have any chest pains, stop shoveling immediately, go inside and assess whether it is a problem, and if you think that you are having a heart attack, make sure to call 9-1-1. Even though it isn’t the most common injury, it is the most dangerous!
  12. Shivering during shoveling causes muscles to pull very easily and risks undue injury. Shivering can also exasperate a fall due to the fact that your connection to paying proper attention to what is going on is interrupted. Don’t try to do too much in once shoveling, especially if you are not used to doing it. Injury is never worth getting something accomplished.
  13. While shoveling, make sure that you pay attention to posture, and be very careful because ice is much heavier than snow, and lateral shear on your skeleto-muscular system is concentrated on a lot of different bones, tendons and muscles that are not used as much or even every day. Fatigue and improper movement of your limbs while shoveling can also lead to risk of being injured.
  14. Ice can be devastating to you being locked out of your car due to freeze over or protrusion of ice into the locks tumblers. Never use a torch. Make sure you do not venture too far, because if you run out of gas because you cannot get it into the tank, because of the ice—it can be a major problem.
  15. Use a brush and window scraper with gloves on to try to minimize risk of frostbite. Try to make sure you are not sealed out of your car, from ice or other elements. Use your safety equipment, shovel, flashlights, kitty litter if you slide or get stuck. Exercise caution while rolling the wheels, as gear slipping and too much heat on the transmission can cause transmission failure. Make sure that you do not drop your cell phone in the snow. Call for emergency roadside assistance if you do get stuck.
  16. NEVER go up on your roof, unless it is flat (then BE very careful, think about safety equipment first)—It is way too dangerous to handle without proper fall prevention equipment, and almost always necessitates a thaw first before being safe to tackle.
  17. If your power goes out, all land-lines usually won’t work, so you will probably have to use your properly charged cell phone.
  18. If your power goes out, call the power company, and make sure that devices using gas and electric are not used. Always smell for natural gas, and if it is present, turn the gas off at the main and call the gas company. These are times that if you elected to buy into a power back-up generation system, you will be so glad that you did!
  19. Before the thaw, test the sump pumps and drains, and make sure the back-flow flap valves are operating to assure that water does not back up from the drain pipe.
  20. Make sure that you are ready for the thaw, as rains can exasperate the conditions. A lot of water run-off is imminent. Make sure that you pay attention to covered storm drains in your area, and if they are blocked, unblock them before a re-freeze. Never leave puddles sit that would normally go down.
  21. Make sure that before you look up to do any maintenance, that the walkways are safe to walk on before thinking of doing any activities.
  22. Also before the icicles get very heavy, make sure that you pay proper attention to the inside of the house, and move important items out into the center of the house away from the eaves and any portion of roof where snow is on it as it melts. Ice dams happen when the snow melts into ice by day, and then re-freezes at night, and then re-melts a second day later and starts running any direction except down.
  23. Make sure if you walk in a downtown district near buildings with icicles, that you look “up” before proceeding to walk into the building. Sound moves too slow to signal danger. Exercise caution at all times.
  24. Make sure if you elect to knocking icicles down, that you knock them away from you due to risk of injury and death. Icicles if they hit your head can be absolutely devastating. Make sure that you do not exert too much force on the icicle, as it could rip shingles, siding, support beams, gutters and molding right off, causing damage to the house.
  25. It is always a handy item to take before photos for your information and insurance purposes. Keep them current and up to date as much as possible. They may be necessary to assist your later damages from the storm.
  26. If you do have a problem, take photos, and save them to consult after the storm with your insurance agent.
  27. Save calling police and fire for emergencies calls only. Don’t call them for maintenance or city public works related issues. Keep the emergency numbers open for persons having real emergencies. Here are some survival tips:
  28. Stay informed by monitoring the storm by radio, and if power is still an option, plug in the TV, and/or internet. A battery operated NOAA.com weather radio is most helpful.
  29. If there is a medical emergency, dial 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room.

AFTER AN ICE STORM:

  1. If you have had an injury, get proper medical attention.
  2. Access any and all damages carefully and pay attention to safety.
  3. Call insurance and only follow the following tips after proper accessing has been done, and don’t forget to take photos first before you fix damages. keep all receipts for supplies, fixing–for insurance or to claim a loss.
  4. If you had to turn off any utilities, access the possibility and turn on utilities ONLY if possible.
  5. Make sure that you replenish salt as the snow or ice melts. Repeat the above “during the storm” tips as necessary until a complete thaw.
  6. Check up on the sump pumps and drains, and make sure they are operating properly.
  7. Continue to make frequent checks on the outside drainage similar to that of during the storm. Blocked sewer can be devastating, particularly if the thaw ends and the cold starts up again.
  8. It may take several weeks to dispose of refuse, make sure if any waste is hazardous to dispose of properly.
  9. Have any property that is not functioning maintained or replaced as necessary.
  10. Fix the decor to return everything to it’s normal state.

RESOURCES & RECOVERY AFTER DISASTER: THE HOME & FAMILY + FINANCIAL TOOLKIT:
There are many disaster and emergency preparedness and assistance resources available for you to help you through the hard times rebuilding:

  • American Red Cross: redcross.org
  • American Red Cross – Contact and Locate Loved Ones: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief/contact-and-locate-loved-ones
  • American Red Cross – Find an Open Shelter: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery/find-an-open-shelter
  • American Red Cross – Safe and Well: 1-800-RedCross (1-800-733-2767)
  • Apps – American Red Cross: redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps. Separate apps cover the subjects of: blood, earthquake, emergency, first aid, flooding, hero care, hurricanes, pet first aid, tornadoes, and wildfires.
  • Pet owner disaster preparation and assistance (ASPCA): aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/aspca-mobile-app. This can assist with personalized missing pet recovery kits, creating digital lost pet flyers that can be shared instantly on the user’s social networks, advice on what to do with your pet before, during and after a storm or natural disaster, and the ability store a pet’s vital medical records and dietary needs, which can shave off precious time in the event of an emergency. This information can be easily stored and shared for your convenience as well.
  • DisasterAssistance.gov: disasterassistance.gov provides information on how you might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster. If the President makes help available to individuals in your community after a disaster, you can visit this site to apply online.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: disasterdistress.samhsa.gov SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters and is dedicated to providing year-round immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.
  • Call: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): fema.gov FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
  • Military OneSource: militaryonesource.mil Offers various articles and resources for emergency preparedness and natural disasters.
  • Money Management in Times of Disaster: personal-finance.extension.org/money-management-in-times-of-disaster with information about Money Management during times of disaster:
    • Money management in times of disaster: Preparation
    • Returning to your damaged home
    • Managing finances and making decisions after a disaster
  • Ready.gov: ready.gov Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. Ready and its Spanish language version Listo ask individuals to do three key things: (1) build an emergency supply kit, (2) make a family emergency plan and (3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.
  • Sesame Street (Emergency Toolkits): sesamestreet.org/toolkits/emergencies has simple and easy resources to help you help children and others recover from an emergency.
  • The National Terror Alert Response Center: nationalterroralert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency. We archive and comment on homeland security related news items from a variety of news sources and tips, as well as provide immediate updates on breaking stories, bulletins and any change in status to Homeland Security advisory. Nationalterroralert.com has become America’s leading source for homeland security news and information. A collaborative resource of news and analysis related to homeland security events, threats and trends. The National Terror Alert Response Network promotes homeland security emergency preparedness through awareness, education, community involvement and partnerships between individuals, groups and organizations. We strive to chronicle homeland security related news, trends and events in an effort to create national awareness and focus. It is our belief that through education and awareness some instances of terrorism may be prevented and through preparedness lives can be saved.
  • TriCare: tricare.mil/disasterinfo In the event of a natural disaster, TriCare US Family Health Plan will post disaster-related information on their homepage. It’s important to know that your TriCare benefits will be maintained during any time of crisis. In the event of evacuation, please take the necessary precautions. In the case of an emergency, dial 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room. Click on an icon below (on the TriCare website) to read alerts and emergency information in your area.
    • TriCare emergency prescription refills: At times during emergencies, TriCare may authorize early refills for prescriptions. You will be notified via this site if early refills re authorized. TriCare officials remind beneficiaries that early refills are only authorized for beneficiaries who specifically indicate they are impacted by the emergency event.

When disaster strikes, this list helps assist you in getting the help and assistance that you need in order to put your life back together.

Any winter storm, including the dreaded ice storm, is a nasty fact of life, but truly is a part of life that all have to deal with. They are not going away, and we need to be prepared, and be safe.

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BE PREPARED: ICE STORMS!

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