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Wind is the weather engine of the world. As is the case with other elements of nature, man’s relationship with it can be perilous. Storms always bring the threat of injury and damage to property. For persons in the path of storms, the more information they receive, the better. We make increasing use of technology to improve how far in advance we can predict and track storms. Recently there have been advancements in assessing the level of threat presented by winter storms.

Circulating and straight-line winds can create major problems on their own. However, it is in combination with other elements where they are even more dangerous. In cold weather, cities and towns are often crippled by snow and ice activity. Having more accurate information may allow better planning and more effective warnings can save money and, more importantly, lives.

Measurement systems have been in place for many years. The Enhanced Fujita Scale measures the power of tornadoes. The Saffir-Simpson Scale classifies hurricanes. A newer measurement, called the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, assesses the threat to overhead utilities presented by ice.

Similar to the Fujita and Saffir scales, the Sperry-Piltz scale classifies winter storm systems on an ascending, five point scale that describes the threat of different levels of snow and ice accumulation. A given storm system is assigned different categories. Winter storm systems are often huge and different parts (such as the storm core and outer edges) present different threat levels.

The Sperry-Piltz scale can assist with predicting the threat of power line damage, related power outages and road danger due to levels of snow and ice. The information can help authorities in making decisions on deploying emergency and repair resources to deal with storm activity. It can also facilitate decisions on travel advisories. With storms, the ability to prepare is increasingly important and the Sperry-Piltz Scale is a welcome and needed tool.

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