Freezing rain, for those who may not know, s the name given to rain that falls when surface temperatures are below freezing. The raindrops become supercooled while passing through a sub-freezing layer of air, many hundred feet (or meters), just above the surface, and then freeze upon impact with any object they encounter.
The resulting ice, called glaze, can accumulate to a thickness of several centimeters.
That ice can cause a lot of problems for area residents. Drivers will have to deal with “black ice” something that many probably haven’t had to heard since they began driver’s ed. But, black ice is indeed possible with the freezing rain expected today.
Signs, such as “bridges may be icy,” should be adhered today. Because it represents only a thin accumulation, black ice is highly transparent and thus difficult to see as compared with snow, frozen slush, or thicker ice layers. In addition, it often is interleaved with wet road, which is nearly identical in appearance. For this reason it is especially hazardous when driving or walking on affected surfaces.
In preparation for the black ice possibility, the Louisiana Department of Transportation (DOTD) issued a winter travel advisory Wednesday morning.
The DOTD has vowed to monitor the roadways for ice, and will have maintenance forces on standby to apply sand and salt over any affected bridges and roadways, to remove fallen trees from the roadways and to close any roads needed.
In the meantime, the DOTD is urging motorists to use extra caution when traveling.
“During winter weather conditions, motorists should drive slowly and carefully, and avoid driving while distracted,” said the DOTD in their press release Wednesday.
Other safety tips include, allowing for extra driving time, reducing speeds in low visibilities and making sure there is plenty of room between vehicles when driving.
But the winter weather hazards are not just limited to drivers. The freezing rain freezes upon impact and thus can cause trees to fall and power line issues.
Freezing rain often causes major power outages by forming glaze ice. When the ice layer exceeds 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters), tree limbs with branches heavily coated in ice can break off under the enormous weight and fall onto power lines. Windy conditions, when present, will exacerbate the damage.
So, as rain becomes ice lines and branches can become heavy and fall, causing power outages and/or damage to property.
Texas, which is having its own winter weather issues, has already announced that utility providers will have planned rolling statewide electrical outages over the next few days. Oncor, one of the state’s largest providers, says the outages will not affect Cowboys Stadium as suburban Arlington has been exempt from the outages that started about 6 a.m. Wednesday. However, team hotels and other Super Bowl facilities were not exempt.