UK & World News

  • 19 February 2014, 14:23

Ice Could Fall From Skyscrapers As Thaw Sets In

As a thaw sets in after a big freeze, US cities are scrambling to protect residents from the risk of ice falling from skyscrapers.

Sidewalks around high-rises in cities big and small have been cordoned off with yellow caution tape because of falling icicles and rock-hard chunks of frozen snow.

In New York, streets around the new 1 World Trade Center were recently closed when sheets of ice were seen shearing from the face of the 1,776-ft (358m) structure - the US tallest building.

The city has had 48.5in (122cm) of snow this winter and several cycles of freeze and thaw.

New York City's Department of Buildings has issued an alert asking building owners to clear dangerous build-ups of snow and rope off sidewalks.

They have warned that the standard penalty is up to $1,000 (560) for those failing to do so.

In Chicago, signs warning pedestrians of falling ice have gone up this week outside nearly every skyscraper and other tall building in the city's Loop.

Last month, outside Chicago's 100-storey John Hancock Center, people scrambled with backpacks and purses over their heads last month to avoid falling ice.

Experts warn things could get worse over the next few days as a thaw sets in over much of the country.

"The snow starts to melt and the liquid drips off and makes bigger and bigger icicles, or chunks of ice that break off skyscrapers," said Joey Picca, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in New York.

"Be very, very aware of your surroundings," he told the AP news agency.

"If you see ice hanging from a building, find another route. Don't walk under hanging ice."

It is not clear how many pedestrians have been hit, but several such injuries are reported every year.

Seven people were hurt in 2011 near Dallas when huge sheets of ice slid off the roof of Cowboys Stadium.

Fifteen people were injured in 2010 by a shower of ice from the 37-storey Sony Building on New York's Madison Avenue.

Storms have hit much of the country for the past months, with snow falling even southern states not used to cold weather.

A polar vortex at the start of the year brought cold winds, sleet and ice for an estimated 187 million people across several states.

Such harsh winter came as a surprise even to the official forecast of the US government, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Last fall the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that temperatures would be above normal from November through January across much of the lower 48 states.

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