Icicles pose potential hazard, can prevent mail delivery

Posted at 10:14 PM, Dec 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-11 16:27:32-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- With persistent below-freezing temperatures, icicles are everywhere; they can be as sharp as swords, claws reaching out from the rooftops.

FOX 13 viewers have been showing off their epic icicles, some almost as big as the people who photographed them.

In some cases, they stretch two stories high. But, as impressive as they are, Mail Carrier Anna Bazan keeps her distance after a close call with a falling icicle last winter.

"It almost fell on my head," Bazan said.

She ducked out of the way to avoid taking a direct hit, "I was able to go to the side, but I did see it coming down right next to me."

It's unclear how many icicle-related injuries or deaths happen in America every year.  The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, doesn't track that, but it happens.  Possibly one of the worst examples was during one of Russia's coldest winters.  In 2010, five people were killed and 150 were injured in the St. Petersburg area by falling icicles.

Personal injury attorney Ed Havas said icicle incidents do happen.

"It is rare, but I have heard of icicles hurting someone,” he said.

Havas said he hasn't handled an icicle-related injury case but said, for the most part, it's reasonable to expect home and business owners to clear their properties of ice 24 hours after a storm.  If you don't clear your sidewalk, your city can fine you. And if an icicle hits someone you could end up paying civil damages. Also, the costs can go up depending on whether the person was invited to your home.

"If you know there's an icicle where people are likely to walk and you know it's big enough to be dangerous and there's a reasonable belief that you have an obligation to clear it," Havas said.

"If you can get those sidewalks clean, the stairs clean, please help us do our job,” Bazan said. “We love what we do. We're here in the dark, in the snow, the rain to give you a service, so help us out."

Bazan refuses to deliver mail to any home she feels isn’t safe, and the postal service supports that decision for all its carriers. Bazan said about half a dozen residents on her route are not getting their mail right now because they haven’t properly cleared their property after recent storms.