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Into the Storm: Our transition into winter

This week I would like to discuss a little about ice storms and freezing rain. We are at that time of year where we are starting our transition into winter. As this transition starts to take place, we have our second severe weather season as well.

As we can see in the past few weeks, temps are on a roller coaster ride up and down. Sometimes, this roller coaster throws in a twist with freezing rain and ice. What happens is the rain falls from the clouds as it normally does but as it sometimes passes through a layer a below freezing temps near the surface, the rain starts to freeze before reaching the ground. This freezing rain causes many dangerous situations – downed power lines, accidents and many injuries.

When this freezing rain hits the ground, it instantly freezes into a layer of ice. This is a very dangerous weather condition, not only for walking but especially while driving. The freezing rain often causes black ice, which is a layer of ice that cannot be seen. It looks like the ground is just wet when in reality it is ice. By the time you notice it, it usually to late to slow down.

Black ice in mountain areas will cause many deaths each year. We do get that here as well. An example in 2005, when I was driving back from Iowa on Interstate 39 south of Rockford, there was freezing rain that turned to snow. The roads had not been treated yet, and the snow was covering the ice. I saw a van spin out of control at 60 mph and flip into the center of the interstate median. The driver and passenger had to be airlifted out of the area. They did survive, luckily. I also hit the ice at only 20 mph and was sliding as well.

When snow covers the ice, you cannot see the ice at all on the surface. If you noticed also when driving, most bridges you cross have signs warning drivers that bridges will ice before roadways. The reason is because the winds and air travel below the bridges, which freezes the top and bottom of the bridges at the same time which freezes the entire bridge a lot quicker than a regular roadway.

These conditions also cause power lines to collect ice. This is dangerous because transformers start to explode and power lines begin to sag and sometimes fall to the ground bringing into the dangers of electrocution as well as fire. Never walk by or around or over downed power lines as they may still be live wires. Live power wires can be fatal if you come in contact with them.

Also, I will talk about ice buildup on vehicles. Freezing rain will often coat a vehicle in ice. The reason is the materials that they are made from is so thin that it cools down a lot quicker than most things. Always keep the windows ice free. Stop periodically and clean them.

Ice and Freezing Rain Safety Tips:

1. Do not travel unless you absolutely have to. 2. Keep a blanket inside your vehicle in case you are stranded. 3. Keep ice off the windows as the ice will sometimes freeze the windshield wipers to the window, making them instantly ineffective 4. Stay away from all downed power lines. 5. Slow your driving speeds and leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles. 6. If you must stop, pull into a safe area away from roadways as other vehicles may lose control and crash into you. 7. Always stay with your vehicle. The reason for this is, if you try to walk for help and slip and hurt yourself, no one may be able to find you for hours or even days. This could be fatal. 8. If walking, slow down and walk very slowly as black ice can also form on sidewalks and driveways. 9. Keep driveways and sidewalks treated. This will also help protect others and keep them safe when walking. 10. Make sure you are always dressed warm enough if you must be outside.

A lot of people tend to wander outside in the conditions because it can be exciting. I strongly urge people not to do this. You are always safest inside your home.

The above photo is a great example of snow falling onto frozen roads. This photo was last year in Elburn. It started as freezing rain and turned to snow. The roads were untreated when I took this photo. You can see that theres no way you can see the ice under the snow.

For information, visit my website at www.stormchaser1.net

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