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WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

8 Inches of Ice? Record Freezing Rain Accumulation

By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
2/04/2014, 7:50:31 AM

UPDATE 2/4/14: This town in Slovenia would certainly be a contender!

ORIGINAL REPORT 1/3/2012: Our "Today in Weather History" graphic caught my eye this morning:


It made me wonder what the maximum ice accumulation record might be, so I did some research and this is what I came up with:

- 11 inches: Florence, Alabama, February 2, 1985*
- 8 inches: Northern Idaho, January 3, 1961**
- 6 inches: Northwest Texas, January 24, 1940**
- 6 inches: Northern New York, December 30, 1942
- 5 inches: Northeast/Canada, January 10, 1998***
- 4 inches: Kansas, December 11, 2007
- 4 inches: Whitefield, Oklahoma, January 13, 2007
- >3 inches: Nebraska, 2006
- 3 inches: Duluth, Minnesota, April 5, 1940
- 3 inches: Lake Benton, Minnesota, November 20, 1953
- 3 inches: Midwest, January 28, 2009****

What about Sleet or Hail? In my 2007 blog entry "Incredible Sleet Stories, Vol. I," I surmised that 6 to 8 inches might be the maximum reported accumulation of sleet, and in the report "15 Feet of Hail: Tracking the Deep Stuff" I mused about large hail accumulations.

*Our full Almanac entry reads "All streets closed due to major snow, sleet and ice storm. 11" of ice coated Lauderdale Co., Alabama." This sounds like a mix of precipitation types (confirmed here by ABC33/40), so I would disqualify it from this list.


Got stories or photos of extreme ice? Leave me a Comment below. Above photo from 2009 Midwest Ice Storm.

**With the disclaimer that I haven't looked at the new edition as of writing this entry, the old edition of (respected weather record curator) Christ Burt confirms these storms in his "Extreme Weather" book:

The deepest ice accumulations ever reported in the United States were measured in northern Idaho, where deposits up to 8

However, the full entry from the Idaho event in our historical database reads:"Greatest accumulation of ice in US history: 8" after 3 days in Northern Idaho. (Mainly rime ice from 3 days of dense fog). (Jan 1-3)." WikiPedia links to two dead references to this event but I found a live one here. In it, the NWS says "ON THIS DAY IN WEATHER HISTORY (JANUARY 3)...IN 1961...THE END OF A 3-DAY LONG ICE STORM LEFT AN UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF ICE ON ALL EXPOSED OBJECTS ACROSS NORTHERN IDAHO. THE COMBINATION OF DENSE FOG...SUB-FREEZING TEMPERATURES...AND OCCASIONAL FREEZING RAIN LED THE ICE ACCRETION UP TO 8 INCHES THICK...CAUSING CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE TO TREES AND POWER LINES...AND ESTABLISHING A U.S. RECORD FOR THICKEST ICE ACCRETION EVER RECORDED."


If the fog bit is true, this entry should be disqualified, in my opinion. Rime ice (which I have blogged about before) shouldn't be counted officially because it is not freezing rain which falls from the sky. If you want to talk big Rime Ice accumulations, Mount Washington might be able to beat that (see photo above). If not, sea-spray ice accumulations might (see examples from the viral Switzerland photos or Lake Michigan).

***Although WikiPedia lists the amount of ice as 5 inches, there is no reference given and the National Weather Service says there was 5 inches of rain, but only 4 inches of ice accumulation. The Environment Canada map shows "over 100 mm (4 inches)."

****I have photos of this event, which was widely reported with 2-inch ice accumulation, and I say there is a claim of three inches, but I don't link to a source or mention a specific location (Bad Jesse!)

As far as I can tell, there has never been more than 2 inches of ice "officially" reported since 2007 (based on LSR & PNS Spotter reports, which we have in a database here at AccuWeather). Larger amounts have been reported in error -- it's not uncommon for the NWS to accidentally pick "freezing rain" by mistake when listing other spotter reports. For example, see this list of the highest freezing rain amounts in the aforementioned LSR database which I have debunked based on other reports:


That leaves us with the 1942 North Texas event of 6 inches as the winner, but I couldn't find any more information for that on the Internet. Since NCDC's quality-controlled "Storm Reports" doesn't allow searches for ice, we may never know. Unfortunately there are a lot of ways to incorrectly measure freezing rain accumulation, which may lead to false amateur reports. In addition to the Rime Ice problem we talked about above, it's the diameter, not the radius, of an ice-covered branch that should be reported. Icicles, which are not relevant, might also be erroneously reported as ice accumulation.

Got stories or photos of extreme ice? Leave me a Comment below.


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WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)