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Health Watch

Winter weather in St. Louis: Snow isn’t the only hazard when it gets cold

Slippery Surfaces and Black Ice Hazards!

Winter Weather in St. LouisWhen you think of the hazards posed by winter weather to you and your children, you rightfully think of cold temperatures and snow cover.

Cold temperatures mean you need to bundle up and make sure your loved ones bundle up, too, so you don’t get too cold when you go outside. Snowy conditions pose other risks as well: snow can make driving difficult, snow can bring down branches, trees, and power lines, causing power outages, and snow can mean travel delays and cancellations. Snow, however, is common and visible and you can typically anticipate how to prepare for and react to snow.

A much more difficult and virtually invisible winter weather hazard is something called black ice. Black ice is ice that forms on a hard surface but is transparent, therefore appearing invisible because the color of the roadway or sidewalk underneath it shows through, making it look like the surface is clear. Anyone who can see ice knows to move slowly and carefully on the ice, or avoid it entirely. Since black ice is difficult to detect before being directly on it, most people can’t change how they move on the ice before they’re already on it. This can lead to slips and falls, and falling on ice can cause injuries anywhere from bruised skin to broken bones.

The best way to avoid a slip or fall on black ice is to try to avoid ice. To avoid it, consider several conditions before walking across a hard surface that appears to be clear: are the temperatures above or below freezing? If the temperatures are right at or below freezing, ice can form. Another way to look for black ice is to look for glossy spots on the sidewalk or road. Glossiness could be mistaken for rain on the surface, or melting snow, but it could be an indication that black ice is actually there. One thing to take into consideration when you look at outdoor temperature is that it can be colder in shaded areas, sometimes cold enough to allow black ice to remain even if it appears to be warm enough in other areas for ice to melt. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to detect black ice before getting on it.

If you or a loved one do fall and think you or they might have broken a bone, walk in for a St. Louis X-ray. All X-rays are walk-in only to help you get back out the door as quickly as possible!

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