Preventing Ice Storm Damage

Characterized by freezing rain, ice storms are a type of winter storm defined by the accumulation of at least 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) of ice on exposed surfaces (U.S. National Weather Service). The ice load can cause significant damage to structures, while even a small amount of freezing rain can make road conditions very dangerous.

The heavy build-up of ice can break tree branches, down power lines, and damage homes and cars. Other dangers include hypothermia, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, which can occur from people using alternative heating sources during periods of extended power failures.

If an ice storm warning has been issued, prepare yourself before it arrives. Make sure you have emergency supplies for you and your family to last at least 72 hours.

 We’ve compiled some important information and safety tips to help you face an ice storm.

What to do before an ice storm

  • Turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for weather advisories and warnings.
  • Fill up your car’s gas tank.
  • Prepare an emergency supply kit with basic supplies including food, water, a flashlight, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.

What to do during an ice storm

  • Ice from freezing rain can accumulate on branches, power lines and homes. If you must go outside after an ice storm, pay attention to branches or wires that could break. Remember that branches and power lines can break up to several hours after an ice storm.
  • Never touch power lines. A hanging power line could be charged (live) and you could get electrocuted.
  • Avoid driving. Even a small amount of freezing rain can make roads extremely slippery. Wait several hours after freezing rain ends so that road maintenance crews have enough time to spread sand or salt on icy roads.
  • If it is safe to do so, clear your surrounding property of the ice and snow, and sand or salt the ground.
  • Check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
  • Freezing rain and strong winds increase the chances for hypothermia, so dress accordingly

What to do if there’s a power outage

  • Check your circuit breaker panel or fuse box to rule out any problems.
  • If you live with young children or the elderly, consider temporarily staying somewhere with power. Otherwise, try to stay warm during a power outage by staying inside and dressing in warm, layered clothing.
  • Stuff towels and rags underneath doors to keep the heat in.
  • Unplug electronics and appliances to avoid a power surge and turn on appliances one at a time once the power is restored.
  • Turn off all lights, except one, so that you can tell when the power comes back on.
  • When using alternative heating, follow instructions, and fire safeguards.
  • Do not operate generators, BBQs, propane and natural gas appliances inside the home or garage as they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector with a battery backup.
  • Check for damaged or fallen power lines, but do not approach them to avoid the risk of electrocution and notify your electric supply authority.
  • Don’t open your freezer or fridge unless absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if doors stay closed.
  • Use a flashlight rather than a candle for light.
  • If lighting candles, use proper holders and keep out of reach of children. Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Ensure the fireplace screen is in place when burning fuel in a fireplace.
  • Avoid burning trash or paper in a fireplace, as flaming paper can travel up the chimney and land on your roof
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