Icy Road Safety.com - Prepare for Weather's Most Underrated Hazard

                Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 8:24PM

Coming this winter: another 2011 tornado season toll

Icy Roads are coming

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
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During the middle of one of the worst heat waves in recent years seems like a strange time to bring up the subject of road icing safety awareness. But in just two months, temperatures in the US will begin their annual decline, bringing the first icy roads to the highest mountain elevations by mid to late September.

We've seen how data shows that in the average year, icy roads kill and injure more people in the USA than ALL other weather hazards combined. But every so often, another weather danger will take center stage with an anomalously high casualty toll and human impact.

In 2005, it was a historically devastating hurricane season that overwhelmed other hazards in terms of deaths, injuries, property damage and human suffering - the majority of which, of course, came from Hurricane Katrina. Much like hurricanes did in 2005, tornadoes have done it in 2011. This year's astonishing number of violent tornado events in populated areas has resulted in four almost unheard of statistics:

  • one of the highest annual tornado death tolls in recent history
     
  • one of the single most deadly tornadoes in history (the Joplin, Missouri EF5)
     
  • one of the highest death tolls during a single outbreak of tornadoes (the April 27 southern outbreak)
     
  • a remarkably high number of cities/major metro areas directly hit by tornadoes (St. Louis; Minneapolis; Springfield, MA; Raleigh, NC; Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL; Louisville, KY; Joplin, MO; )
2011's big weather story, rightfully so, will be its tornado season. But a fact that will likely go unnoticed is that after winter is done, road icing will have claimed the same number of lives as this year's devastating tornadoes.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Let's work to change that this winter! Some ways you can help:

  • Remember that it is the light icing and snow events that are most deadly. Big ice storms and snowstorms already benefit from high public awareness and tend to have very few incidents. It's the more subtle events that cause the most accidents, deaths and injuries.
     
  • Media professionals, you can help raise awareness by emphasizing the icing hazard when it occurs in your broadcast area - and give it the same urgency you would a tornado warning.
     
  • National Weather Service, consider dedicating resources and facilitating operational changes to warn the public about the high danger from light icing and snow events.
     
  • Storm chasers and spotters, consider covering light ice and snow events this winter to increase awareness of the hazard in your local area, and report dangerous icing conditions to the NWS just as you would a tornado or large hail.
     
  • State highway departments, coordinate with the NWS during light ice and snow events and utilize resources to help warn drivers (electronic signs, email and text notifications, etc).
     
  • and finally, and most importantly: Drivers - realize the level of danger from road icing, know the warning signs, and take action accordingly (by either postponing travel or simply slowing down). Read icyroadsafety.com for tips and information.
Together, we can keep this upcoming winter's icy roads from surpassing the 2011 tornado season in lives lost.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

Recent Blog Posts
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- Commentary on the recent viral WV pileup video - January 8, 2012
- Significant road icing outbreak: Monday, January 2, 2012 - January 2, 2012
- No vehicle can safely go highway speeds on icy roads - December 23, 2011
- Another case for "Road Ice Warnings": December 8-9, 2011 light snow event - December 10, 2011
- A big thanks to those helping raise road icing awareness - November 18, 2011
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- 2011-2012 road ice season in the US already in full swing - October 22, 2011
- Coming this winter: another 2011 tornado season toll - July 21, 2011

Past Blog Archives
- April 2010 - January 2011 posts
- December 2009 - March 2010 posts
- November 2009 posts
- October 2009 posts
- March-April 2009 posts
- February 2009 posts
- January 2009 posts
- December 2008 posts

Educational Winter Driving Videos - Watch for Free:

Video: How to correct a slide on an icy road (and how to prevent them)Video: Icy Bridges: Weather's underrated killerVideo: Deadliest Weather: Freezing Rain

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458
Deaths in the US
from icy roads
2009-2010 winter
[ More Statistics ]

477
Deaths in the US
from icy roads
2008-2009 winter
[ More Statistics ]

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