Before, during, and after an ice storm
If you live Canada (and especially if you live in Ontario, Quebec, or the Atlantic provinces), you’ve probably witnessed a few major ice storms in your lifetime. Ice storms are caused by freezing rain, which occurs when raindrops fall from a warm layer of air into air that is below freezing and become supercooled. When the supercooled drops hit a surface that’s below 0º, they freeze instantly and form a layer of ice. But while those glistening, ice-coated trees might look beautiful from the comfort of your heated home, ice storms can lead to widespread power outages and cause serious damage to homes, trees, and power lines. Keep these tips in mind before, during, and after an ice storm to stay safe and prevent avoidable accidents.
How to prepare before an ice storm
It’s a good idea to stay prepared for severe weather all winter long. Take these steps as soon as possible so you’ll be ready if an ice storm hits:
- Make sure you have shovels and de-icing products on hand. Stores often sell out of salt, sand, and other de-icing products after a big storm, so it’s a good idea to stock up ahead of time. You might also want to consider keeping your shovels indoors in case you need to dig yourself out of the house after a storm.
- Install a set of quality winter tires on your vehicle. When the roads are icy, winter tires can mean the difference between a close call and a fender bender. It’s best to install your winter tires before the temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius — if you’ve already missed that mark, install them as soon as possible.
- Prepare your winter driving emergency kit. Review this list of 10 items to keep in your car for the winter and get them all organized in your trunk.
- Prepare for a power outage. Ice storms can lead to widespread power outages. Familiarize yourself with these tips for dealing with a winter power outage and make sure your family knows exactly what to do if the power goes out.
- Keep an eye on your local weather forecast. Look out for government-issued special weather statements and warnings about freezing rain so you aren’t caught by surprise.
- Get your winter emergency kit ready. If you can’t leave the house or the power goes out during an ice storm, you’ll want to have at least three days’ worth of supplies on hand for each member of your household (including pets).
Keep these items in your family’s emergency kit:
Winter storm emergency kit
- A portable charger for your cell phone
- Wood or fuel for your stove or heater
- A list of emergency contacts
- A first aid kit
- Bottled water
- Candles, matches, and a lighter
- A flashlight and extra batteries
- Warm blankets
- Non-perishable food (and pet food for Fido)
What to do during an ice storm
Once the freezing rain has started, keep these tips in mind:
- Hunker down in a safe place and wait out the storm. It’s best to stay inside during an ice storm, as sidewalks, roads, and other surfaces will likely be extremely slippery. Trees and power lines may also break and fall down as they get coated with ice, which can be dangerous for anyone who is outside.
- Keep pets indoors as much as possible. Bring outdoor cats inside, and if you have to take your dog for a walk, consider these tips to keep them safe and warm.
- Avoid driving your vehicle. Even the smallest amount of freezing rain can make the roads extremely slippery and dangerous. If you absolutely have to drive during an ice storm, proceed slowly and leave lots of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you, like you would during a snow storm.
What to do after an ice storm
After the storm has passed, you might be tempted to get out of the house to salt your sidewalks or go to the store to re-stock your supplies. Consider these tips before leaving the house after an ice storm:
- Dress appropriately for the weather. There’s a good chance it’s still pretty chilly outside, so make sure you’re wearing warm enough clothing. Wear warm boots with good tread, as sidewalks, parking lots, and roads are likely to be slippery.
- Watch out for falling ice, branches, and power lines. Even hours after the freezing rain has stopped, ice, branches, and power lines can continue to break and fall down. Avoid walking or driving under trees or anything else that could be coated with ice and stay away from downed power lines.
- Clear your sidewalks. Try your best to get rid of ice that has built up on sidewalks and walkways around your property and apply a de-icing product to help melt the ice and prevent slips.
- Stay off the roads if possible. After a major ice storm, it can take communities a while to clear their roads — especially if there are downed trees and power lines. Avoid driving as much as possible until roads have been cleared and coated with salt or sand. If you have to drive somewhere, go slowly, steer clear of tree branches and downed power lines, and stick to major routes that are more likely to be clear.
- Inspect your property and the immediate surroundings for damage. If you spot downed powerlines or tree branches nearby, contact your local police or hydro company. Don’t go near downed powerlines.
- Check for a buildup of ice on your roof. Ice dams can do serious damage to your home, and they shouldn’t be ignored. If you notice a buildup of ice or snow on your roof, consider hiring a professional to safely remove it.
- Contact your insurance broker if your car or home has been damaged. If it’s outside of your broker’s regular business hours, contact your insurance company’s 24-hour claims service line.
If you’re wondering how your home insurance policy could protect you in the event that your home is damaged in an ice storm, contact your licensed insurance broker today.