12/08/05 — Freezing rain, sleet different but dangerous

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Freezing rain, sleet different but dangerous

By Other
Published in News on December 8, 2005 1:46 PM

Ice falling in the form of freezing rain is particularly dangerous and poses a variety of problems. Freezing rain occurs when the atmosphere is right at freezing and way too warm to produce snow or sleet. Freezing rain falls as rain, however, once the raindrops reaches the surface, if temperatures are just below freezing the raindrops instantly freezes upon contact with the ground, trees, power lines and roadways.

The ability of freezing rain to accumulate on everything including trees and power lines makes freezing rain one of the most dangerous forms of winter weather. Freezing rain can create widespread power outages as experienced during the December ice storm of 2002 when nearly an inch of freezing rain brought down countless trees and power lines.

Freezing rain will cover the pavement with a sold glaze of ice that makes driving very dangerous and nearly impossible. Over 85 percent of ice storm deaths are traffic related. Freezing rain will even accumulate on the steps and railings of your home making going out the door hazardous. Many injuries occur every year when people slip on the ice, breaking legs and arms.

Sleet can also be dangerous. Sleet forms when a raindrop falls encounters freezing temperatures above the earths surface and freezes into an ice pellet just before reaching the ground. Sleet can accumulate very efficiently on roads and sidewalks. Since sleet is a small sold ball of ice it usually accumulates more efficiently than snow. This is why sleet can make roadways and walkways very dangerous in just a short amount of time.

When driving ice can be very difficult to recognize. The roadway may appear to be wet when in reality what appears to be water may actually be ice. If the temperature outside is below freezing ice can form on the roads, especially on bridges and overpasses. When encountering ice, do not panic and do not stomp on your brakes. Striking your brakes will cause your car to slide into a skid. It is safer to slowly decelerate to a stop. Driving slow and defensively goes a long way when driving on ice and snow.

The National Weather Service issues Winter Storm Watches and Warnings when a quarter inch or more of freezing rain is forecast.

Winter Storm Watches and Warnings are also issued when a half of an inch or more of sleet is expected. These watches and warnings are issued to help protect life and property allowing local communities time to prepare for the winter weather.

Winter Weather Advisories are issued when light accumulations of freezing rain or sleet less than a quarter of an inch are expected to cause travel problems and hazardous conditions.