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What you should know about falling icicles and how to stay safe

By Carter Williams  |  Posted Feb 7th, 2017 @ 4:01pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Midway man died Sunday from injuries suffered in what investigators said was a freak accident involving a falling chunk of ice in Park City just days before.

Park City fire officials estimated that the chunk of ice was at least 700 pounds in weight and fell on the man as he was cleaning windows.

Incidents similar to what happened in that case are unlikely and there isn’t much information that shows how many people are injured or killed from falling icicles.

One unverifiable and undated report circulating online states that 15 people in the U.S. die each year from falling icicles. While the data is questioned, other outlets note at least hundreds of injuries — and even some deaths each year from either falling ice or snow-removal accidents.

The U.S. Department of Labor states that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated 16 deaths or serious work-related injuries were reported within the past decade from incidents revolving around snow or ice removal. Of course, not all of those involved falling icicles and that data doesn’t even cover home-related accidents.

Though rare, it doesn’t neutralize the danger of falling icicles. And with the weather cycle such as this winter’s, KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman said large formations are possible — and that makes it a concern as temperatures have warmed up over the past few days.

“We’ve had a period of time where it was really much colder than usual in January. We had twice the amount of snow — most of (the towns) did. We had a ton of snow and cold in January, then we had this really fast warmup that happened last week,” Weyman said. “That’s going to create a lot of that snow melting in the day … so you have these icicles that form. Then at night, it cools back down. It freezes again. If you have a period of days like that, you can get these really huge icicles that’ll form.”

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According to National Safety, Inc., icicles can reach upward of 1,000 pounds in weight and several feet long in size. The size and danger, Weyman said, can be altered from the pitch of the roof.

In a blog posted on National Safety’s website, occupational safety expert Ken Oswald noted several tips regarding falling ice.

First, individuals should be aware of their surroundings since most ice falls within 5 to 10 feet from a building. The height of the building, of course, can lead to the rate of speed at which the ice falls. If possible, individuals should wear head protection as even a half-pound icicle can create 1,000 pounds of force, he notes.

People should not stand directly beneath icicles and ladders should not be placed directly against a gutter covered with icicles, Oswald adds.

Weyman said most home improvement stores carry some form of extended rake or pole that is ideal for icicle or snow removal. He said the best time to knock down icicles is when temperatures begin to rise.

“When it warms really quickly and you’ve had heavy snow around and when icicles are present at your house and you have a warmup with wind like today, I’d be a little careful getting under those things. It would be a good idea to knock the icicles down with a long pole,” he said. “Anything like that is a smart idea to do to prevent icicles not only falling on people, but to (prevent) icicles that can form ice dams — that can get water leaks in your house and that kind of thing.”

He echoed Oswald in that people should be mindful of their surroundings, especially under buildings.

“Whenever there’s a situation where it’s warming quickly, there’s heavy snow, icicles are present, people should be a little mindful of being near edges of buildings,” Weyman said.

Carter Williams
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    KSL Weather Forecast

    Updated: Friday March 24, 2017 12:36 pm