Ice Storms

Nature’s Cold Shoulder

Freezing rain… sounds innocent enough, until it becomes a layer of ice, enveloping every single thing in a heavy, unwelcome embrace.

(image credit: Joeo Paglione)

(image courtesy: Rick Macomber © 2007)

Ice storms are able to put the life of an entire state on hold, as power distribution is disrupted and often not restored for a couple of weeks. You are left with nothing much to do, other than to admire the cold beauty of ice “kingdom” around you. You turn into a truly “captive audience”.

A week without any power

We all remember the 1998 ice storm in Quebec. Here are some pictures of this devastating event. Over fifty high voltage towers collapsed, one after another. According to wiki “just one quarter of an inch of ice accumulation can add about 500 pounds of weight per line span”.

(photo by Michel Laflamme)

(photo by Jacques Paul)

(photo by Serge LeClair)

(photo by Michel Lacroix)

Close to 1.4 million people in Quebec and 230,000 in Ontario were without electricity. In some cases, people stayed without power for up to six weeks. It was the most destructive storm in Canadian history.

This is a good article about it. Also, for some interesting photographs of a significant ice storm in Spokane, Washington in 1996.

Ice-encased sea of grass

Mike Hollingshead from Extreme Instability documented the ice storm that happened in December 2006 in Nebraska and parts of Kansas. With photographer’s permission we reproduce some of the most impressive pictures of the aftermath of that storm.

(images credit: Mike Hollingshead)

The iconic image of ice-encased blade of grass is well-known. But here is what an ice storm can do with a grass field: turn it into a sea of ice.

(images credit: Mike Hollingshead)

(image credit: John Deerhake)

The picture above was taken outside the small town of LaFayette, Ohio. It was during a nasty ice storm in early 2005 that had left the whole northwest part of the state out of power for over a week.

Returning to the storm in Nebraska, here is some barb wire:

and a guiding wire to a pole - ice 2 inches thick!

(images credit: Mike Hollingshead)

(original unknown)

Want to fill up your car? You may be thwarted in your efforts. Here is the frozen control panel of a fuel pump:

and the pump handle:

(images credit: Brandon Hauff)

Strong winds and extreme cold combine to create ice sculptures

The following pictures were taken in Hungary, at Lake Balaton by an unknown photographer:

The conditions responsible for creating these icicles seem to be similar to the more famous extreme weather occasion on Lake Leman. In fact, these conditions happen throughout the region - the following picture was taken at a lake in central Italy, called Bolsena, in a windy area 100km north of Rome:

(image credit: MaxResolution)

Lake Leman has an icy touch

Technically, not an ice storm, but a very impressive accumulation of ice due to the high wind (gusting to 110 km/h) on Lake Leman near Geneva, Switzerland. This has happened 2 years ago and the pictures were widely seen on the internet, but they never fail to fascinate. See more photos here.

Here is the eye-witness account: “The cold did not save sailing ships moored in the ports of Léman. In Geneva, several boats sank under the weight of the ice. Several minor roads were closed, passage having been made impossible by the ice and the snowdrifts. In downtown Geneva, Servette Street was closed after the rupture of a water pipeline transformed the roadway into a true skating rink.”

(image credit: Jean-Pierre Scherrer )

(images credit: skyandsummit)

(image credit: Jean-Pierre Scherrer )

(images credit: skyandsummit)

(image credit: Jean-Pierre Scherrer )

The Frozen Flood

The ice encasing these unfortunate automobiles will melt, but the situation could’ve been much worse - like during the flood of Badger River in Newfoundland in 2003. All the flood water froze completely and the trapped cars were sitting in two-meters-deep ice for months:

(images credit:

Buried in snow is no fun, either

Granted, it’s not as radical as power-killing ice storm, but extreme snowstorms can disrupt the normal life just as significantly:

After three snowstorms in Halifax, Canada, some cars disappear for good:

(image credit: photofiddler)

(image credit: Ruth & Dave)

When “The Flying Dutchman” becomes a frozen one

When you are at sea, exposed to storm weather elements, and then come to port - your buddies may not recognize the ship any more:

(original unknown)

The following picture may scare you into thinking about some horrendous ice storm, but it actually depicts a house after the fire-fighter’s efforts to put out the fire:

Finally, to reconcile you with Mother Nature again, here is a nice picture of a frozen waterfall:

Carlos Dagorret
CTO Facultad de Ciencias Económicas

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.

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