Can Ice Accumulation Cause Power Outages?

Everyone knows that winter weather makes driving treacherous. Heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain often make it unpleasant to be outside. What you may forget about winter is that ice accumulation can affect you no matter where you are—it can damage your home roof, city infrastructure, or even the electrical grid. 

The more ice accumulates, the higher the risk of power outages. The first things you’ll probably notice are your lights and Wi-Fi going out. If the power stays out for too long, you’ll have to start worrying about your refrigerator, stove, and electric appliances. 

When winter comes, you need a backup plan to get you through a blackout when the electricity grid lets you down.

What Is Ice Accumulation?

Most winter imagery we see focuses on snow. However, the more dangerous aspect of winter weather comes from ice accumulation. When you get freezing rain or sleet, ice starts to build up: on roads, on vehicles, on trees, and on power lines. If it stays cold enough long enough, it leaves a layer of ice across everything.

Weather professionals measure accumulation by the thickness of ice on surfaces. By the time accumulation reaches a quarter inch (6.35mm), it’s already enough to cause significant problems. In the worst storms, ice accumulation can reach a full inch (25mm). At that level, trees and power lines will not hold up well; you may experience widespread power outages that last for days.

Why Does Ice Accumulation Cause Power Outages?

Ice accumulation causes power outages in two ways. One is the direct result of ice accumulating on power lines. It adds significant weight to the lines and can pull them down. Power lines are built to stay in place, but enough ice accumulation increases their weight to the point that they sink or break their connections.

Beyond ice accumulation on the lines themselves, a layer of ice on nearby trees often pulls branches down onto power lines. The lines break, cutting off the power supply for every service address connected through that line. Depending on the storm’s severity, it can take utility repair crews days to get out to all the damaged lines and restore power.

Other Potential Consequences of Ice Accumulation

Losing power might be the most immediately apparent consequence of ice accumulation. Still, other problems arise that can affect you at home or on the road. As ice builds, winter dangers increase dramatically. Everything that ice touches gets more dangerous and less stable.

Traffic Accidents

Icy roads create havoc for drivers. With snow, the hazards on the road are visible. Ice is often invisible, so you don’t know what will happen until you hit the brakes and start to skid. At highway speeds, this often leads to injuries or death. Businesses and schools will often close down during a severe winter storm to limit driving in unsafe conditions.

Fallen trees

As ice builds, the weight on tree branches increases quickly. Small branches take less than a half-inch (13mm) of ice accumulation to start breaking off. By the time ice reaches an inch thick, large branches, or sometimes even the trees themselves, bend and break under the weight. Fallen trees or limbs can hit your vehicle, house, and power lines.

Communication Towers

Accumulating ice can also weigh down communication towers. Enough accumulation can impact your landline, cell phone, or Wi-Fi services, sometimes for days before utility providers can restore services. It leads to individual frustrations connecting with family, friends, and employers, as well as large-scale issues related to city services and emergency communication. 

What Can Be Done To Prevent Ice Accumulation?

Technology does exist today to help prevent ice accumulation. Chemical sprays and coatings with nano-particles can treat power lines, roads, and other surfaces to keep ice from accumulating. Some municipalities and states are using this today. It can help make the streets safer and power lines less apt to break.

Still, you don’t have much ability to demand these services or to control what happens with the power lines that serve your home. The most that you can do is treat your driveways and sidewalks, prune back trees on your property, and hope the storm won’t impact your home.

How Power Stations Can Help During a Power Outage

One of the most important steps you can take to address energy insecurity is to purchase a backup power supply. The right portable power station, plugged into your home’s electrical system, provides a home backup power source that can power all your critical appliances and devices long enough to ride out a power outage if it comes.

For a home backup power solution to be effective, you need to look for a power station with enough capacity to do the job. The EcoFlow DELTA Pro, for example, can provide between 3.6 and 25 kWh of electricity for your home, offering a whole home backup power solution. When paired with solar panels, the EcoFlow DELTA Pro can reduce your reliance on the grid, keeping you ready for even extended blackouts during an ice storm.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Freezing Rain Causes Power Outages?

About a quarter-inch of ice accumulation from freezing rain is enough to cause power outages and disruption. Severe freezing rain or ice storms with a half-inch or more accumulation can cause widespread, prolonged outages. Local infrastructure and conditions also influence the extent of the damage.

How Much Damage Does Ice Accumulation Cause?

The amount of damage frequently depends on how much ice accumulation you get. Even a small amount of ice accumulation can be responsible for accidents, injuries, and even deaths. If you’re unprepared for a power outage, extended blackouts can lead to food spoiling, loss of heating, and other issues related to the absence of electricity.

How Much Ice Does It Take To Knock Power?

It takes very little ice accumulation to knock out your power. A quarter inch (6.35mm) is enough to break smaller branches from trees. A half-inch (12.7mm) causes more severe issues.  And by the time you reach a full inch (25mm) of accumulation, ice can cause catastrophic damage that impacts the electrical grid for days.

Final Thoughts

Ice accumulation is one of the most insidious winter dangers. From road and home hazards to lost power, you need to prepare for whatever may come. The EcoFlow Smart Home Ecosystem gives you the peace of mind of a fully-connected generator and backup power supply. You can’t control mother nature, but you can get your home ready to respond to whatever she brings.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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