The following web story is a direct transcription from the National Weather Service regarding winter weather awareness week. We are an important partner with the National Weather Service to educate and remind everyone about the many hazards that a New York winter brings and how to keep safe for the winter season. This is the third of a five part series on winter weather safety. Today TMs topic will focus on one of the most hazardous winter weather events central New York can experience, an ice storm.
Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees and power lines as well as topple utility poles and communication towers. Ice can disrupt communications and power for days while utility companies repair extensive damage. Even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous to motorists and pedestrians. Bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous because they freeze before other surfaces.
Freezing rain is the result of precipitation which initially falls as snow at higher elevations in the clouds. The precipitation then encounters a layer of warm air aloft which melts the snow as it falls and changes it to rain still up in elevation. The rain then falls and freezes on contact to streets, roadways, trees, and power lines as it encounters below freezing air right near the ground creating a film or sometimes a layer of ice on surfaces.
Most of the United States receives less than 10 hours of freezing rain annually. The highest frequency occurs in the Saint Lawrence River valley where over 40 hours of freezing rain are observed annually. Most of central New York receives 20 to 40 hours of freezing rain every year.
The National Weather Service issues ice storm warnings for ice accumulations of half an inch or more. Ice storm warnings are the most serious warnings to be aware of. Winter weather or freezing rain advisories are issued for any ice accretion for less than one-half inch. This also includes freezing drizzle.
The worst ice storm on record occurred from January 5th through 9th in 1998. Freezing rain fell for much of this period across northern New York, northern New England and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Ice thickness reached 3 to 5 inches with total damage exceeding 4.5 billion dollars. In the United States federal disaster areas were declared in 37 counties, where 16 people died and 18 million acres of forest was damaged by ice. Central New York also has a long history of ice storms: January 1954, December 1991 and as recently as April 2003 and January 2005.
For additional information on winter weather safety, click here.
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