or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Tell me about ice storms

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
We don't get them in Europe (well, not in my experience anyway) but I spotted this news story on www.drudgereport.com today: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/2578764.htm
I also saw the excellent movie 'Ice Storm', with Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline a few years back.
But what is your experience of this meteorological phenomenon? Where do they take place, and why? Do they take place outside the USA - anyone?
post #2 of 17

I can't get into any meteorological detail behind ice storms, but they basically happen when cold air is trapped at low (ground) elevation with warm air up higher. The precip starts falling as rain, lands on the frozen ground, and voila, ICE STORM.

I have personal experience during the great New England ice storm of 1978(?). I was about 13 years old, living in Connecticut. We were without power for 5 or 6 days. There was 1-2 inches of ice everywhere. Trees falling down left and right. It got to a point where we had to seal off the living room and rely completely on the fireplace for heat and cooking.

My little cousin was with us because his dad was called up by the national guard due to the state of emergency. His wife was in Hospital giving birth. So, there was my five year old cousin, with us in the frozen house, screaming continuously. I'll never forget the site or sound of it.

Outside, it was surreal. You could ice skate on the snowpack. A tree missed our house by 20 feet. Another crushed my neighbor's car. There was NO SCHOOL, so we kids had a blast, aside from my cousin of course.

A few years back, another ice storm did big damage in northern New England. Ski areas are still clearing the trees from wooded glades. I do think that the ice storm is predominantly a New England event.
post #3 of 17
Luckily they don't happen that often, I was lucky to experience one in Rochester, NY, it basically shut the city down and the surrounding area for almost a month.

What happens is it rains, but its not cold enough to turn it to snow, as the storm starts it usually starts snowing at first, then warms up a bit causing the snow to turn to rain, and basically freeze on everything it touches.

The storm causes most damage by taking down powerlines and trees. In Rochester's case the storm took down a ton of powerlines leaving the city and outskirts without power for quite sometime. Luckily where I lived we had underground powerlines...

The funny thing about the whole storm, is that when we woke up in the morning, the sun was shining, everything was covered in almost over an inch of ice and it actually looked quite beautiful outside.
post #4 of 17
Growing up in southern Michigan, I remember quite a few in the winters. The rain would freeze on whatever it touched. My family lost a large birch tree in our front yard to one. Actually, the ice storm is one of nature's most beautiful things. When a sunset is very colorful, it lights the entire place up, totally amazing. I remember in high school, when the rollerblade craze was just starting we had an ice storm. We all took our hockey skates out and skated all over downtown areas and snow drifts. The city was one huge skate park!
post #5 of 17
we had a big ice storm a few years back in New England, New York and Quebec- it was quite something (I think 1996/1997??) 3 days straight of ice. Many of the ski areas closed in New England- I rember skiing at Attitash in new Hampshire and as you skiied down, there was loud explosions- pow, pow, pow- real loud- going off all through the forest. It was the sound of large trees snapping in half under the weight of all that ice.
post #6 of 17
When I see an ice storm forcast it puts the fear of god in me. I have a 100% all electric home.
I witnessed a very severe ice storm in central Indiana in 1989. The storms path was about 25 miles wide and 150 miles long. I had a customer over there who was requesting some quick critical information and I was unable to get ahold of them. Not wanting to loose the account, I drove over there. What I found changed my perception of ice storms. They had gotten 2 1/2 inches of freezing rain in 10 hours followed by high winds. 5 days later the roads were largely impassable. Every tree was completely striped of its branches down to a stump, every power line, telephone service, cable tv and every power pole was snapped like a twig and laying on the ground. The large steel towers carrying the 512,000 volt lines were twisted like pretzels and laying on the ground across the roads. literally anything that stood upright was damaged. Homes and business were heavily damaged. There was no power anywhere, no stores open, no restraunts, no gas stations and no municipal water or sewage. Everywhere was littered with trees and debris. Power crews were working round the clock to repair the damage but many places including my customer were told that it could be as long as 6 weeks before power would be restored. People were all walking around like zombies with blank stares on their faces, litterally without hope. The people were all very cold and in need of a hot meal, living without services or heat.
You simply cannot understand what kind of damage ice can cause until you have seen it. The only other time I have seen similar damage was with hurricanes and tornadas, but even with those, I have never seen every one of the big steel power line towers, on the ground. When I drove out of the devastation area, less than 15 miles, all seemed sane and normal. It felt good to be out of there but I have a very uneasy feeling. To this day the damage is evident if you look.
post #7 of 17
OK, I haven't read what everyone ese has said, so if I'm repeating someone, I apologise. As far as I'm aware (and we foxes know a lot about rain), ice storms are caused by temperature inversions. Normally, the higher you go, the colder it gets, but ocassionally mother nature likes to throw a curve ball (what -I'm talking like an American here!) and make it colder below than above. This can occur after several cold days, the ground cools down, then warm air comes in, but before the ground has time to heat up again, it starts to rain. The rain falls as rain until it gets near the ground, then freezes. If the objects it touches are below freezing, but it is still liquid, then as soon as it hits them, it freezes to them, creating ice build ups. As the ice level on an object increases, so more rain sticks to it, until a very heavy weight of ice is sitting on top of an object not designed to carry that load. That's when things break.

And that's all I know about ice storms. They do happen outside America, but it requires a large land mass to create the temperature fluctuations.


P.S. This could be totally wrong!
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the very interesting anecdotes. Very good reading.
This temperature inversion thing is fascinating. A few years back, in an Austrian resort called Leogang, I saw the product of what seemed to be weeks of temperature inversion, but with quite a different result.
The fields were covered in massive delicate ice crystals that seemed to have propagated in freezing fog, or maybe just persistent frost. From memory the crystals were 2-4 inches wide.
The temperature in the village, which is maybe a known frost-pocket, was noticeably colder than up the mountain. And the snow conditions, not suprisingly, were superior to neighbouring Saalbach.
post #9 of 17
Spokane Washington was hit with a horrible ice storm in 1996 (I believe). You can still see the damage to the pine forests.

Here is a diary (not mine) on what it was like to be in the middle of the storm without power for a week.

Spokane Ice Storm
post #10 of 17
During the ice storm in the North East (2 or 3 years ago) many people in Montreal were without electriciy for 1 month! My in-laws were finally asked to leave their house after 3 weeks of living with no electricity at all.

The scenery in Quebec after the ice storm was as surreal as it was scary.
post #11 of 17
We were in St.Jay, VT during that big ice storm and couldn't leave the house without sliding off the road, even with 4 wheel drive. I remember a couple days later Burke was open but Jay Peak was not. Apparently Burke ran their lifts during the storm to keep them from freezing up. Jay's were all stuck solid. The trees were all so beautiful. Now I know why birches are common up north. They bend over gracefully with the ice and don't snap. I also remember all those power trucks driving up to Montreal from all over the US coming to their rescue.
post #12 of 17
Sublimation The process whereby ice changes directly into water vapor without melting. In meteorology, sublimation can also mean the transformation of water vapor into ice. The most disruptive ice storms occur when significant amounts of liquid precipitation fall from an above-freezing layer of air aloft through a sufficiently deep layer of sub-zero air near the surface. The precipitation freezes as it falls down through the sub-zero surface layer. Raindrops that freeze completely prior to coming in contact with the ground are referred to as ice pellets. Ice pellets generally do not cling to wires or exposed surfaces unless accompanied by rain or wet snow. If the surface layer is not deep enough or cold enough to freeze the drops completely, these raindrops freeze almost immediately upon contact with a surface, such as pavement, car windshields and utility wires, spreading out into a smooth veneer of clear ice, often referred to as a glaze ice. If accompanied by snow, an opaque and milky rime, with embedded air bubbles, is the result. It is often this combination that results in sufficient build-up to cause structural failure or lines to snap.
post #13 of 17
Wear the Fox hat has nailed it. It's when a warm very moisture laden Low pressure front OVERRIDES a cold High pressure area. When the two collide, in the upper atmosphere it starts out as rain. As it falls through the cold High pressure air, it turns to sleet.
post #14 of 17
We get ice storms, or freezing rain, quite often in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver. They make for very pretty scenery, but are otherwise a drag. This is the only condition that I refuse to drive in; you have no control of your vehicle whatsoever, unless you have a 4WD with chains on all 4 tires. Luckily, the storms are quite transient, and there is usually proper, wet rain to melt the ice in short order. A few years ago we were stuck house-bound for several days though, without power. Many people in the rural area we live have wood stoves and gas generators just in case. Good idea to have a stock of groceries too.
post #15 of 17
but ocassionally mother nature likes to throw a curve ball (what -I'm talking like an American here!)

Hey, you could have used 'googly' & some of us would have gotten it.
post #16 of 17
In 1968 I was up at Stratton VT with good news ...... and ..... bad news.

Bad News ..... orders to trans-pac to Nam.
Good News .... 13" of fresh powder overnight.
Bad News .... a temprature inversion had turned the top of the pow into boiler plate ice via an hour of freezing rain just before dawn.

New girlfriend and I decided to at least try to ski that last day. The powder was still intact under the ice that was just over boot top high and about an inch thick.

The stuff was not ski friendly and the only way down was to play ice breaker. Being a "gentleman", I got to go first and endure. By the time we made it to the bottom my shins were bloody and bruised from punching through that mess.

Every time I see a bumper sticker that has that "never a bad day skiing" ...... well one bad day ..... : out of a thousand is bound to happen ..

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 01, 2002 03:42 PM: Message edited 1 time, by yuki ]</font>
post #17 of 17
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by HarryO:
Wear the Fox hat has nailed it.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Bugger. I said something that was right.
There must be a mistake somewhere. This never happens.

Rio: The Aussies might have understood what a googly is, but there's a lot of English on this forum, and they don't have a clue! (or maybe I should say their batsmen don't have a clue how to play them!)

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion