By Charlotte Richter
Midwestern weather is an anomaly in and of itself, but the region is especially susceptible to freezing rain. Both the National Weather Service and FEMA issue ice storm warnings when an expected ¼ of an inch of ice or more is forecasted. Ice can make traveling more difficult, cause trees to fall and power lines to sag and snap. Here’s how to lighten the risk to you and your home.
Before Anything Happens
In any natural disaster, it’s better to have things ready before the situation becomes dangerous. Make sure your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are checked with new batteries, as during a storm, alternative heating sources can become a fire hazard. Keep trees near your house maintained, especially trees or limbs leaning towards the house; ice storms significantly increase the chance of them falling into your property.
TrustPoint Insurance Agent Teresa Anderson advises, “A standard homeowner policy usually covers damages to your home due to limbs that may fall on it from the weight of ice and snow. However, you will want to check with your agent regarding any water damage that may occur due to the freezing of pipes and any subsequent water damage to see if your policy has coverage for that. Usually, there are ways to get coverage for it by endorsement. It's always a good idea to have these coverage conversations with your agent regularly. ”
Just in case, gather items for an emergency safety kit in your car, including clothes, non-perishable foods, bottled water, a flashlight, batteries and jumper cables. Make sure your tires can handle snow and ice, and the gas tank is full.
As bad weather surfaces, gather items in case you get stuck inside, and the power goes out. This includes bottled water, batteries, flashlights, chargers, non-perishables, medicine, first aid kits and alternative power/heating sources. You should also find large empty containers to fill with clean water in case you are stuck for days.
If you have pets, remember to have food, water and designated supplies for them as well. Perishable food items are not a lost cause! If you set your fridge and freezer to the lowest setting available and keep them closed, you can preserve food items before the storm (but use these items first and remember that they expire fastest). It’s common to lose power in an ice storm, so keep a radio or something to access local weather advisories somewhere in the house. Check advisories and know the signs of a storm.
Keep your pipes from bursting by adding insulation to blank spaces (walls, attics) or on the pipe itself. Keep your heating system on and open the sink cabinets to provide warm air and let the faucet drip or drizzle. You can also add extra insulation inside the house to keep out the cold.
Know the risks of frostbite and hypothermia and how to treat them:
- Frostbite signs include off-color, numbness and hard skin, usually at the appendages. It should be treated by soaking affected areas in warm water.
- Hypothermia includes a body temperature below 95° accompanied by loss of motor and mental skills. It should be treated by heating the core of the body and the head by using warm, dry covers such as blankets.
During the Storm
During an ice storm, avoid traveling and don’t go outside unless you have to. If you are outdoors, use extra caution. Use well-insulated clothes and footwear with traction. Take your time when moving around to prevent slipping and falling.
According to The Weather Channel, ice can increase the weight of tree branches up to 30 times and can add 500 pounds of extra weight to power lines. Consequently, tree branches, power lines and power poles can fall.
Agent Anderson states, “If you must drive during an ice storm, check with your agent regarding comprehensive and collision coverage. The optional coverage that you may want to consider is Roadside Assistance and Rental Reimbursement.”
Ice accumulation has reached over two inches in the U.S., and ice storms have been known to last for days without relief. Manage your resources and stay in touch with emergency services.
If you are trapped in your car, try to stay inside of it to preserve the warmth. Don’t forget to check on neighbors, but be mindful of your situation.
Check your pipes; they may be frozen if you see frost, or if you turn the faucet on and only get a small stream. If that’s the case, keep the water running! Don’t use an open flame, but a small electric heating source near or on the pipe can thaw the system (remember to keep the heat source dry). If you can’t reach it, call a professional.
Also, continue to avoid outside areas and avoid hampering the efforts of emergency services by staying off of roads and out of high-risk areas.