Nat’l Weather Service photo. 2002 Carolina ice storm

Ice. That’s a heavy topic. Really. Especially when it comes to power lines.

Here we are at what is often the coldest part of the coldest month of the year, January.

North and South Carolina have had some memorable ice storms, some as early as the start of December. I know one Carolina-based utility emergency person who doesn’t feel comfy until March 1st. Even then there can be trouble. An early March 2014 ice storm took out 800,000 Piedmont area customers, for instance.

2018. Kernersville, NC. Duke Energy photo.

In winter precipitation can start out as snow high in the air. If that snow goes through a warm layer of air it melts. If there is colder air just at the surface that moisture can freeze on contact – an accumulation of ice.

The cold or moisture of an ice storm is not the culprit behind power outages. It is often the weight. Ice builds-up on power lines or trees that can snap from the stress. Some people peg a quarter inch of ice as an important level to watch. Power outages may be more likely after that amount.

Here are tips for winter weather preparedness from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.