Ice Storm Preparedness – Are You Ready?
Preparedness for an ice storm involves several unique considerations that are more serious than a winter snow storm.
A major ice storm event is forecast as I type this. It will affect a large geographical swath. There could be up to 1/2 inch of accumulating ice. That’s bad. Real bad! So, the forecast is a good excuse to write a post on ice storm preparedness.
I will talk about the unique and major problems with an ice storm event. And what you can do for preparedness.
Having experienced my share of ice storms over the years (of varying extents), expect two MAJOR likelihoods…
- Impossible travel
- Power outages
It’s simple, and obvious. When weather conditions are just right, freezing rain will rapidly build up on ALL SURFACES. It’s nearly impossible to drive a vehicle on thin “black ice”, let alone more than that! 1/8 inch. 1/4 inch. 3/8 inch. 1/2 inch! more?!!
Fuggedaboutit… You Won’t Be Driving During an Ice Storm
Be Home Before It Begins
You will not be traveling. At least, you better not be! So be sure to get home, or be home BEFORE the ice storm begins! You may not realize the importance of what I just said… The minute it starts glazing to ice, it’s TOO LATE. You’re going to wreck your vehicle and possibly injure yourself. Get home before it happens.
You WILL be risking your life if you drive on any roads during an ice storm. There will be a zillion accidents, spinouts, and people off the road. Good luck waiting for help…
Have you ever driven on ice? It’s nothing like snow! Turn the wheel and your vehicle keeps going the direction it was going… Hit the brakes and your vehicle keeps going the same speed it was going! It is a scary feeling to say the least.
Ice Storm Preparedness – The Most Important Thing…
Given what I said above, regarding being home before the ice storm starts, rather than cutting it close, so to speak… The most important thing for ice storm preparedness is to know the specific forecast for your local region.
Know The Forecast Well Before The Ice Storm
Today’s supercomputer weather modeling is pretty darn good. There are a handful of models that are predominately used by meteorologists. The two best-known models are the National Weather Service’s Global Forecast System, or GFS, and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, known as the ECMWF model. They are also known as the American and European models, respectively. Generally speaking, the European model has produced the most accurate global weather forecasts.
Know When The Ice Storm Is Forecast To Begin
With that said, they are complicated. Meteorologists use this information for analysis to compliment their own experiences and other tools. Then, they simplify it for public consumption. The weather forecast. The timing of when the ice storm might begin. This is important.
Why do I mention the obvious? Well, every, single, time, there are countless people out on the roads during an ice storm. The News loves to highlight the wreckage and carnage of the idiots out in the storm, right? Don’t let that be you, is all I’m saying. It’s different from a snow storm, whereby it’s not terribly difficult to drive in (up to a point), especially with a properly equipped vehicle (e.g. 4WD, traction tires) – and experience driving in the snow. However, ICE? Not gonna do it… You’re gonna get stranded or wrecked.
Know WHEN it’s forecast to begin, and be home well before it. Leave work if you have to. Early.
SNAP… goes the Branches and Power Lines
Unique to ice storm preparedness are long term power outages.
Water is heavy. Ice is heavy. Picture a tree with all of it’s branches and limbs increasingly thick with ice. Eventually, SNAP… down comes the limbs. Down come the trees.
And do you know where they tend to fall? That’s right – on top of power lines.
Now picture this… power lines building up ice. Bit by bit. The weight of the building ice sagging the lines. Eventually, SNAP… down comes the power lines.
Now you’re at home with no power. And it’s winter. It’s cold outside. The likelihood of quick repair is slim to none. An ice storm event is wide spread. Crews cannot even begin to work until the roads are safer to travel. You’re going to be in the dark for a longer time that you might imagine… This can become quite serious during the winter.
No Power, No Heat, No Nuttin…
Your primary concerns at home. Heat. Maybe saving the food in your chest freezer. Those who are on well water…your pump will be out. Got enough food to last two weeks? More?
Again, your big concern will be heat. Plan ahead for this. A quick remedy is a portable heater. I own, and recommend the “Heater Buddy” as a simple and safe heater. I wrote about it in the following article.
[ Read: Buddy Heater Runtime ]
If you have a furnace (as opposed to electric heat), pre-preemptively hard wire its power source through a transfer switch. This will enable an outside generator to power the furnace. I’ve done this, except it’s by way of my solar system battery bank and inverter.
Of course, a portable generator operating outside. Extension cord run into the house. Here’s an article about the right extension cords for this…
[ Read: Best Extension Cord For Generator | Heavy Duty Gauge Recommendation ]
Those with electric heat (typical in the south because it’s not needed all that often). A typical sized generator will not be adequate to fully operate most electric heat systems. They draw A LOT of electricity/power. So a portable heater is probably a better option for you.
Okay, next… Maybe you’ve got a lot of cha-ching $$ invested in food setting in your chest freezer. Don’t open it. You’ll be good for 24-48 hours. Cover it with blankets. If you have a generator, you could run an extension cord to it. Operate it for an hour, a few times a day.
[ Read: Chest Freezer or Fridge During Power Outage ]
A few additional helpful things for Ice Storm Preparedness
Oh my goodness I can’t tell you how often my ice cleats have saved the day…and probable falling on my butt. Just get a pair. They are well worth it! Here’s an article that I wrote about my ice cleats…
[ Read: Best Ice Cleats for Shoes & Boots – Winter Walking & Hiking Traction ]
TIP: If you have stairs leading to your front door, or porch, etc.., it may look clear, but thin ice is impossible to see (usually). Don’t break a hip by assuming those stairs aren’t slippery! Ice cleats. Hold on to the rail.
Battery Powered Radio
Information! I advocate having a portable battery operated radio. One that gets AM/FM which is where you will find your local news and information. Some broadcast stations will still be up and running because the big guys have big generators to keep on transmitting.
[ Read: Best AM Radio for Long Range Listening ]
[ Read: Best Cheap AM/FM Portable Radio ]
Additional obvious items include flashlights, headlamps, extra batteries thereof, cooking stove safe for indoors, warm blankets, and… patience.
[ Read: Cooking Stove Safer For Indoors ]
[ Read: Headlamp or Flashlight | Compared | Which is Best? ]
Preparing for a Winter Snowstorm – Basic Supplies for Power Outage
The most important thing to do before an ice storm is to get home first.
Pre-preemptively have a solution for supplemental heat, because the power will likely go out, and it’s winter time. Safety first. Got well water without a generator backup? You better secure a storage of water. Then, food. Then the creature comforts.
Apart from that, enjoy the beauty of the ice storm. It is a remarkable scene. Especially when the sun comes out after it’s over. Take some pictures. Hopefully it won’t be a regular thing!
[ Read: How to Charge Your Phone When the Power is Out ]
[ Read: Warmest Blanket Material For Winter — Fleece vs Wool ]
i got saved in bad ice storm by luckily thinking to use the area around a hospital as cut through. its was sanded, salt and they were removing wrecked cars so ambulance could get through. I had 4×4 with good tires so i was fine but other roads were all blocked with accidents and the “freak outs” when they cannot drive.
We get lots of ice storms up our way and you have noted many important items and activities Ken, especially get home and ice cleats! If you don’t have a garage I find putting a tarp over our boxy SUV especially for ice, works well for me. I use 4 or so bungee cords hooked into the tarp grommets to the wheel rims. Most rims have at least 1 spot to hook a bungee cord onto. I have winter rims and tires so there are no hubcaps and lots of places to hook on to. This way the wipers don’t stick and ice doesn’t get into every nook and cranny and you can open the doors and windows easily. In case of emergency just unhook the bungee cords that hold your tarp to the wheels pull to the side and you’re good to go. I find a tarp easily lasts 5 years and is great for snow to as it tends to slide off with a little push.
Ice can kill you if it slides off the roof of someone’s vehicle so try stay away from the lazy idiots who don’t clear off their vehicles. Even the school buses up our way try get snow off the top using a roof rake ( easier to google than describe lol!).
Of course if you live in Florida most of this is academic 😂.
Good call on using bungee cords. I can easily remember tying a tarp down with a rope once, not thinking that the rope would be frozen solid and unable to be untied. That’s one lesson that will be remembered and the mistake not made again. I’d tied the rope down in snowstorms before without a problem. Having rain and sleet before the snow on this occasion made the rope unworkable, even after roads were clear enough to drive on. The car had to wait an extra day. Live and learn!
I went the rope tie down way the first time and had a similar experience lol! The other advantage of the bungee cords is that come in different colours specifying the length. As long as put the tarp on the vehicle in the same spot, which is easy enough to do, I know that two longer yellow and two shorter green are all I need to tie down as well as control any tarp flapping. The other advantage is I can see the colours if they drop in the snow so as not to suck them up in the snow blower. I find the tarp lasts longer than the bungees as they often freeze fully extended and its not great for their lifespan.
I’ve never been in an ice storm, but when I was living outside of Carson City, a heavy equipment operator broke a water main in the middle of winter. Water shot up 50′ and covered the entire area with 3′ of ice! It was beautiful when the sun came out and a lot of fun sliding on (as a kid). Now, that crap scares the hell out of me! LOL!
Thanks Ken for the great info/tips!
I keep a cotton throw rug in the car. Toss it outside the door when I get ready to step out of the car. Keeps me from slipping on ice. If there’s a path I need to follow at home, like front door to car that’s iced over, I toss town old fuzzy blankets to walk on. Asphalt roofing shingles also give pretty good traction on slippery surfaces.
Ice storm,,, is that like when the ice maker goes berzerk and overflows?
It was chilly this morning, 49, brrrr
But now sitting in my truck for lunchbreak its a nice trade wind breezy 84,, sunny, just a typical winter day on Maui!
Kula, Brah, 49 degrees wow,where you stay, up da ranch? was like 68 at zero four this am over on Oahu.
So what, Target got TP, we have plenty over here, let me know if ya need!
Na, we are good on TP,i follow the NRP plan, target was out still last weekend though.
Yea, its 47 this morning,,, we are upcountry, only 3200’ it will get down into the 30s occasionally
Is 600 rolls really enough?
man you don’t know all the fun you’re missing! we get to break out all of our “survival” tools and play with em during a ice storm : )
DW and i are like two old bears, we’ll just bury up in the bed and hibernate.
We are in the waiting mode now. Side x side is in the small shed by the house, fully fueled, fully charged automotive battery with jumper cables in the bed, 80 gallons of gasoline in storage for the generator, plenty of food and water, plenty of propane (kitchen range and auxiliary infra-red catalytic wall heater). Plenty of chicken feed and pet food.
Weather channel saying up to 3/4″ of ice for us followed by up to a foot of snow…if so, we are in for quite a ride…rain has already started, freezing should start tomorrow afternoon around dark-thirty …. can’t run, can’t hide, just keeping our wits and taking it in stride.
… and yes… life is good on the mountain.
Stay safe D,,, i cant even imagine weather like that, 3/4” of ice,,, WTH
……..May the bird of paradise fly up your nose…. May an elephant caress you with his toes….
I know,,, sorry, i couldnt resist, what can i say, im kinda a jerk
Good one, I was sitting in my truck, reading Kulafarmer’s comment and looking at the dash where the readout said it was 41 below and thinking rude things kulafarmer could do with his balmy trade winds when I hit your comment! The problem is, now I have that darn song in my head. Thanks ever so much !
The weird Al version,,,
My wife is the CEO of a power company and, also as a retired cop having worked the streets during snow/ice storms, they suck for people who have to be out in them. Her crews will be out as soon as they can get out and work VERY long hours restoring power. Please be patient ….These storms are life-threatening by themselves without FOOLS adding to the problems. As Ken says, STAY/GET HOME AND STAY THERE!!!!. Remember….First responders (Cops, EMS, Fire, and power crews) are working in extremely hazardous conditions trying to save lives and don’t need YOU adding to their problems!
Howdy Dennis. I’m watching the Weather Channel and saw the Gov of Arkansas has declared a State of Emergency. I figured you and family are OK, but, you never know. Generally, I do not worry much about regular posters on this site but it is interesting to hear reports from them when in the center of these situations. As usual, State of Texas is reporting lots of power outages according to the news. I hope those folks are a bit better prepared this time.
– Winter storms in west Texas tend usually to be ice storms. Double ditto on cleats and get home before it hits. If you are caught out in it, second best thing is, don’t drive any faster than the speed you are willing to run into a tree, rock, etc. No more than about 20 mph or so. Expect not to be able to stop, turn, or brake.
Best thing of course, is just don’t do it.
The nice thing about this part of the world, it will melt and be gone in about a day or two on average. Our current storm is exceptional, it will last about three days.
– Papa S.
Thanks for the update Papa S. 3 days…getting to be mighty close to those 9 missed meals that we all talk about being the start of anarchy. Somehow, I picture you folks as coming from tougher stock than those of us living along the Left Coast. Maybe I been watching too many Westerns of TV. To the recently relocated Californians out there: Adapt or die. Save your money to buy extra food, driveway de icer and snow cleats for your warm boots.
In my neighborhood, we do not worry about the Californians any more. We worry about the recently relocated Portland types that relocated to our neighborhoods. (the same ones that got tired of teargas with their evening cocktails during 2020 Summer Protests)