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February 17, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Falling Ice

The snow has come to an end for now, the temperatures are warming up and you need to be on the lookout for falling ice. Most cities have signs in place warning of falling ice on sidewalks around the area but many people don’t pay much attention to them.

In Chicago, ice is falling off buildings and creating a real danger. Outside of the Sears, Tower a huge piece of ice fell and shattered a car windshield half a block away. This may be good for the auto repair shops but not your wallet. Back in January, a woman was struck by a piece of falling ice from a building on the Magnificent Mile. Luckily the injury was minor. Shards of falling ice can kill. Even if you are not right next to the building, you still have to be careful because the wind can get a hold of the ice and blow it quite a distance.


Shattered window of  car near Sears Tower.     Photo: CBS

There are even companies out there trying to prevent falling ice. Roof de-icing products remove ice and snow along an entire length and width of a panel with high efficiency thermal conductivity. These products also prevent the formation of ice dams. What’s an ice dam? Well, after a snowstorm, radiant heat from the sun and a home or business causes snow to melt. This snow melts and trickles down the roof and freezes, creating an ice dam. Future snow-melt accumulates behind this ice dam, creating a water pocket that can damage the roof. The water can also freeze, creating a larger ice dam, which can damage roof overhangs and rain gutters. Roof de-icing systems are used at many resort communities and ski resorts, including Park City Mountain Resort, the site of many events during the 2002 Winter Olympics.


Leave a Comment
  1. Shawn Rampy / Feb 17 2010 3:10 PM

    I recall calculating the terminal velocity of an average-sized hailstone as a assignment from college days. Don’t remember the actual speed, but it was impressive enough to convince me that my soft noggin would lose that battle. So, I stay indoors during hailstorms.

  2. Dave Gorham / Feb 17 2010 8:13 PM

    When I was a weather forecaster at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma years ago, we had a football helmet and shoulder pads perched by the back door for when the weather observer (aka: lowest person on the totem pole) had to go outside and measure hail size.

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