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Ice Storms

The term ice storm describes a storm that produces significant accumulation (0.63 cm or more) of ice during freezing rain. To produce this amount of ice, accumulation usually has to occur for several hours. Significant ice storms are rare; however, they can transform roads into huge skating rinks and leave downed power lines and broken trees in their wake.

Ice storms typically begin with snow and strong easterly wind conditions well ahead of an approaching warm front. The snow changes briefly to sleet and then to rain that freezes on impact coating all exposed surfaces with a growing layer of ice.


Overhead power and communications lines and trees can be hit the hardest during an ice storm. The accumulation of ice on the lines and tree branches is a serious health and safety risk. Ice buildup on the lines and trees can cause them to break under the added weight.

Electrical power and other critical services could be disrupted for days. This will have an impact on the University, as well as people’s homes.

Travel on the streets and highways could be impacted due to the buildup of ice. Stopping distances on glazed ice are 10 times greater than on dry pavement.


The following are suggested actions:

  • As there would be advanced warning of an impending ice storm, emergency kits should be checked and updated.
  • Due to the accumulation of ice on the streets and highways, travel may not be recommended.
  • Critical infrastructure (electricity, water, and gas) may be affected.

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