What is an ice storm?

An ice storm causes very dangerous road conditions.

An ice storm occurs when freezing rain or hail covers a region. Not only do the roads freeze, but the trees, bushes and transmission lines freeze as well. Because of the weight of the ice, this type of storm can do tremendous damage to an area, knocking down trees and power lines. Some previous ice storms caused farmers to miss entire crops or lost energy for many days.

Ice storms can cause excessive damage to an area.

Typically, an ice storm occurs when the ground temperature is below 0 °C (32 F). Above ground, the temperature is close to zero. These storms are common in areas where you don’t see much snow, because they don’t require the same degree of cold that would produce snow.

However, an ice storm can also affect areas that receive snow annually. In 1998, a storm hit northern New York and parts of eastern Canada. It was immensely destructive, damaging numerous maple trees in Canada, used for the maple sugar industry. It also caused energy loss for many people, about three million. Many have not had their energy restored for up to six weeks.

Ice storms can create extreme hazards for drivers.

This ice storm and others are more challenging than snowstorms because they can destroy a lot with a relatively small amount of ice. Generally, to be defined as an ice storm, a quarter of an inch of ice (0.635 cm) must fall. A quarter inch of snow, by contrast, tends to be much easier to manage, even in regions where snow is uncommon.

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The roads become dangerous to drive because they are frozen. People lose energy, crops and trees can be cut down. People can and have died because of limited access to driving and therefore medical facilities, or because they may not have inadequate heating systems in their homes or emergency generators.

Ice can cover trees and other objects during an ice storm.

The 1998 storm in New York and Canada caused about 3 million US dollars (USD) in damage. The loss of work days and stalled business can be incalculable. Other storms resulted in even greater financial damage. The President of the United States declared parts of Kansas a disaster zone after it was hit by an ice storm in 2005. At least $39 million of estimated damage occurred.

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