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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Ice Hazard on the Roads and Walkways

As we get into the winter season, nothing seems to draw local weather reporters concern like the potential for ice on the highways and by-ways. This is commonly referred to as "black ice."

In fact, there is no such thing as "black ice" - what we do get is clear ice that so transparent that the surface underlying it remains visible. As set out here:
This type of ice gets its name from its ability to blend in with its surroundings.

"It's called black ice because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road, but it's actually clear," Lee said.

Driving on such a surface can be a challenge, requiring special care:
AAA offers the following tips for motorists who encounter black ice while driving:

- Be aware of and on the lookout for black ice. Pavement with black ice will be slightly darker and duller than the rest of the road surface; it commonly forms on highly shaded areas, infrequently traveled roads, bridges and overpasses.
- Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses, which typically freeze first and melt last. Even if the roadway leading up to a bridge appears to be fine, use caution as the bridge itself could be covered in a sheet of ice.
- Never use cruise control.
- Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes, which increases your chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Drive, turn and brake slowly, adjusting speed to road conditions and leaving ample stopping room (three times more than usual) and watching for brake lights, fishtailing or sideways cars and emergency flashers.
- Avoid braking on ice. If you approach a patch of ice, try to brake in advance and control the skid by easing off the accelerator and steering in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
- If you have antilock brakes, do not pump the pedal; the vibrations and pulsating against your foot when you press down are the system working. For drivers without antilock brakes, use "threshold braking," keeping your heel on the floor and using the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the pedal to the "threshold" of locking your brakes; removing your heel from the floor could cause your brakes to lock.
- Use your low-beam headlights.
- Remember, four-wheel drive doesn’t help you stop any faster.
- Keep a winter-weather kit in your car, containing an ice scraper, blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, bag of kitty litter, shovel and charged cell phone, as well as reflective triangles or flares, cloth or paper towels and jumper cables.


Walking on this ice can be difficult. Take it slow.  If you really need to go out, you might want to spend a few bucks on something like these ice walkers (about $20 from REI):



And, of course, in our world there is always room for some humor:



Whatever you chose to call it, be careful out there when there is ice on the roads and walkways.

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