Changes in Ice Storm Impacts over Time: 1886–2000

David A. Call Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

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Abstract

Ice storms have a variety of negative effects on society. Through an analysis of newspaper accounts of nine exceptional ice storms, the most widespread and longest lasting impact is the loss of electrical power. Power outages also cause secondary effects, such as carbon monoxide poisoning and fire, and they can force people to leave their homes because of a lack of heat. Other impacts of ice storms are transportation disruptions, school and business closings, and economic losses to agriculture and some business sectors. However, some businesses, such as those associated with the hospitality sector, actually benefit from ice storms.

Modern power outages have a longer duration than those associated with earlier storms. Rural areas are most likely to suffer from long power outages because utilities prioritize areas with greater numbers of customers and because fallen trees may limit accessibility. Several suggestions for reducing electrical disruption, such as aggressive tree-trimming programs and burial of lines, are analyzed. While these may help, less reliance on electricity for lighting and heating systems could also provide a benefit.

Corresponding author address: David A. Call, Department of Geography, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306. Email: dacall@bsu.edu

Abstract

Ice storms have a variety of negative effects on society. Through an analysis of newspaper accounts of nine exceptional ice storms, the most widespread and longest lasting impact is the loss of electrical power. Power outages also cause secondary effects, such as carbon monoxide poisoning and fire, and they can force people to leave their homes because of a lack of heat. Other impacts of ice storms are transportation disruptions, school and business closings, and economic losses to agriculture and some business sectors. However, some businesses, such as those associated with the hospitality sector, actually benefit from ice storms.

Modern power outages have a longer duration than those associated with earlier storms. Rural areas are most likely to suffer from long power outages because utilities prioritize areas with greater numbers of customers and because fallen trees may limit accessibility. Several suggestions for reducing electrical disruption, such as aggressive tree-trimming programs and burial of lines, are analyzed. While these may help, less reliance on electricity for lighting and heating systems could also provide a benefit.

Corresponding author address: David A. Call, Department of Geography, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306. Email: dacall@bsu.edu

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