Ice storms are an all too familiar scene to Kansas residents. They almost always result in power losses and sometimes can even be deadly. The aftermath can somewhat resemble the destruction caused by a Kansas tornado – fallen trees and power outages everywhere. However, while a tornado generally causes damage in a somewhat limited area, winter ice storms affect a more widespread area.
Five Worst Kansas Ice Storms
On December 10-11, 2007, nearly all the state of Kansas was hit with widespread moderate to heavy freezing rain that resulted in equally widespread 1-2 inch ice accumulations. In fact, a few areas were coated by phenomenal 2-4 inch accumulations! Damage to trees, power lines and power poles was obviously staggering and made any attempt at travel treacherous, if not impossible. Power outages were, of course, widespread, affecting around 260,000 people. Many areas were without power for 1-2 weeks! Damage to the electrical infrastructure alone was estimated at $136.2 million, making this the costliest ice storm in Kansas history. Such damage involved around 2,000 power poles and 7,900 spans of conductor. Around 5,400 lines and transformers required refusing. Damage estimates to buildings, trees and other foliage was unknown. Amazingly, no fatalities were reported!
On January 29-31, 2002, Southwest, South-Central, and all of Eastern Kansas experienced sleet and freezing rain causing horrific 1-4 inch ice accumulations across most areas. The greatest accumulations reached 2-4 inches in Southwest Kansas where, at the Stafford County Fairgrounds, the roof of a livestock building collapsed. In Northeast and East-Central Kansas the weight of the ice was also so great that the roofs of several other buildings also collapsed. Damage to trees, power lines, and in some cases, power poles, was obviously widespread, resulting in power outages that lasted 1-2 weeks. The total damage was estimated around $60 million.
On January 4-5, 2005, nearly all of Kansas suffered an ice storm coating nearly all of the state with ½ to 2 inches of ice. Although the primary culprit was freezing rain, sleet greatly increased the magnitude of this event, accumulating to around 2 inches in many areas. Damage to trees and power lines was major! Trees as tall as 22 feet were split and fell, as did many limbs 6-12 inches in diameter that, in many cases, fell onto roads and highways as well as other power lines. Streets became partially blocked by fallen debris and in some cases totally blocked because of fallen power lines. Power outages, of course, were widespread and prolonged, with many towns experiencing multiple outages, lasting 1 ½ to 2 weeks. In all, 56 counties were declared disaster areas. Around $36.2 million damage resulted of which around $30 million occurred in South-Central Kansas. This horrific winter storm claimed 4 lives and injured 2.
On March 18-19, 1984, Southwest to Northeast Kansas received freezing rain, some associated with embedded thunderstorms, producing 1-2 inch ice accumulations on all exposed surfaces. Topeka was hit especially hard as the heavy weight of the ice severed power to around 100,000 people, or about 82% of the city’s population. A large TV transmission tower collapsed along with hundreds of trees, power lines and power poles. Believed to be the worst ice storm in Topeka’s history and among the worst in Kansas History, power wasn’t restored to some areas for a week.
On March 15-17, 1998, Southwest to North-Central Kansas saw an event that resulted in widespread 1/2-2 inch accumulations. However there were reports of staggering 4-6 inch accumulations on extremely elevated structures such as radio towers. For example, an 800-foot tower in Southwest Kansas collapsed after a reported 6-inch accumulation. In fact, every radio tower in Southwest and West-Central Kansas received significant accumulations resulting in damage that, in some cases, resulted from ice falling from the towers in question. Damage was estimated at $3.485 million with power outages lasting 6 days.
What’s a couple of takeaways from the above examples?
The electrical infrastructure always takes a hit and you had better be prepared for a power outage. Since roads can become impassable, emergency services such as ambulances, police, and fire can be greatly impacted. While most people will shelter-in-place during and following an ice storm, if you must drive be sure you have your winter storm kit for your car.
If you live in an ice prone part of the country, this is one of those disasters you definitely want to prepare for. Weather forecasters generally warn of impending ice storms, so you’ll want to pay close attention to your local news and take the necessary steps to prepare for the storm before it hits.