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People Who Died in Winter Storms

A winter storm is an event in which the varieties of precipitation are formed that only occur at low temperatures, such as snow or sleet, or a rainstorm where ground temperatures are low enough to allow ice to form (i.e. freezing rain). In temperate continental climates, these storms are not necessarily restricted to the winter season, but may occur in the late autumn and early spring as well. Very rarely, they may form in summer, though it would have to be an abnormally cold summer, such as the summer of 1816 in the Northeast United States of America.

Why can winter storms be so dangerous?

Most deaths from winter storms are not directly related to the storm itself.

People die in traffic accidents on icy roads.
  • People die of heart attacks while shoveling snow.
  • People die of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

Snowstorms are storms where large amounts of snow fall. A massive snowstorm with strong winds and other conditions meeting certain criteria is known as a blizzard. A large number of heavy snowstorms, some of which were blizzards, occurred in the United States during 1888 and 1947 as well as the early and mid-1990s. The snowfall of 1947 exceeded 2 feet (61 cm) with drifts and snow piles from plowing that reached 12 feet (3.7 m) and for months, temperatures did not rise high enough to melt the snow. The 1993 "Superstorm" manifested as a blizzard in most of the affected areas.

Snowstorms are usually considered less dangerous than ice storms. However, the snow can bring secondary dangers. Mountain snowstorms can produce cornices and avalanches. An additional danger, following a snowy winter, is spring flooding if the snow melts suddenly because of a dramatic rise in air temperature. Deaths can occur from hypothermia, infections brought on by frostbite or car accidents due to slippery roads. Fires and carbon monoxide poisoning can occur after a storm causes a power outage. Large amounts of snow can also significantly reduce visibility in the area, a phenomenon known as a whiteout; this can be very dangerous to those who are in densely populated areas, since the whiteout can cause major accidents on the road or while flying. There are also several cases of heart attacks caused by overexertion while shoveling heavy wet snow. It is difficult to predict what form this precipitation will take, and it may alternate between rain and snow. Therefore, weather forecasters just predict a "wintry mix". Usually, this type of precipitation occurs at temperatures between −2 and 2 °C (28.4 and 35.6 °F). Snowstorms generally occur when different types of air masses in the mid-latitudes interact. These storms feed on differences in temperature and moisture. Initially, a wave is typically formed in the mid levels of the atmosphere as a result of a variety of things, be it a mountain range, injection of vorticity (energy), or several other reasons. Assuming certain conditions are in place for this wave to amplify, it will do so and begin to rotate, which effectively moves warm and moist air from one air mass to the north, and much colder and dryer air behind it to the south and east. The boundaries between the air masses constitute the warm and cold fronts of the new cyclone/storm.

Heavy showers of freezing rain are one of the most dangerous types of winter storm. They typically occur when a layer of warm air hovers over a region, but the ambient temperature a few meters above the ground is near or below 0 °C (32 °F), and the ground temperature is sub-freezing.

While a 10 cm (3.9 in) snowstorm is somewhat manageable by the standards of the northern United States and Canada, a comparable 10 mm (0.39 in) ice storm can paralyze a region: driving becomes extremely hazardous, telephone and power lines are damaged, and crops may be ruined. Because they do not require extreme cold, ice storms often occur in warm temperature climates (such as the southern United States) and cooler ones. Ice storms in Florida will often destroy entire orange crops.

Notable ice storms include an El Niño-related North American ice storm of 1998 that affected much of eastern Canada, including Montreal and Ottawa, as well as upstate New York and part of New England. Three million people lost power, some for as long as six weeks. One-third of the trees in Montreal's Mount Royal park were damaged, as well as a large proportion of the sugar-producing maple trees. The amount of economic damage caused by the storm has been estimated at $3 billion Canadian.

The Christmas Day Ice Storm of 2000 caused devastating electrical issues in parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The city of Texarkana, Arkansas experienced the worst damage, at one point losing the ability to use telephones, power and running water. In some areas in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and eventually Louisiana, over an inch of ice accumulated from the freezing rain.

The Ice Storm of December 2002 in North Carolina resulted in massive power loss throughout much of the state, and property damage due to falling trees. Except in the mountainous western part of the state, heavy snow and icy conditions are rare in North Carolina.

The Ice Storm of December 2005 was another severe winter storm producing extensive ice damage across a large portion of the Southern United States on December 14 to 16. It led to power outages and at least 7 deaths.

In January 2005, Kansas had been declared a major disaster zone by President George W. Bush after an ice storm caused nearly $39 million in damages to thirty-two counties. Federal funds were provided to the counties during January 4–6, 2005 to aid the recovery process.

The January 2009 Central Plains and Midwest ice storm was a crippling and historic ice storm. Most places struck by the storm, saw 2 inches (51 mm) or more of ice accumulation, and a few inches of snow on top of it. This brought down power lines, causing some people to go without power for a few days, to a few weeks. In some cases, some didn't see power for a month or more. At the height of the storm, more than 2 million people were without power.

See Also:

  • Snowfall in Israel
  • July 2007 Argentine winter storm
  • Blizzard of 1888
  • Blizzard of 1947
  • Groundhog Day Blizzard 2011
  • The European winter cold snap of 2010-2011
  • Winter of 2010–11 in Great Britain and Ireland
  • Winter storms of 2006–07
  • Winter storms of 2007–08
  • Winter storms of 2008–09
  • Winter storms of 2009–2010

Blizzard/Snowstorms (See also: - Wikipedia - Blizzards)

  • A blizzard is a severe snowstorm characterized by strong sustained winds of at least 35 mph (56 km/h) and lasting for a prolonged period of time—typically three hours or more. A ground blizzard is a weather condition where snow is not falling but loose snow on the ground is lifted and blown by strong winds.

Ice Storms (See also: - Wikipedia - Ice Storms)

  • An ice storm is a type of winter storm characterized by freezing rain, also known as a glaze event or, in some parts of the United States, as a silver thaw.[1] The U.S. National Weather Service defines an ice storm as a storm which results in the accumulation of at least 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) of ice on exposed surfaces.[2] From 1982 to 1994, ice storms were more common than blizzards and averaged 16 per year.[3] They are not violent storms, but instead commonly perceived as gentle rains occurring at temperatures just below freezing. For this reason people may be unaware of the danger if it happens overnight.

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