Flash Freeze Defined: How wet roads can quickly turn into a hazard

Weather Glossary

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – A flash freeze is as simple as it sounds. Once temperatures drop below 32°F, there is a chance for any liquid water to quickly become ice. That ice can cause major accidents on roadways in an instant.

Several months in Rochester average afternoon highs above freezing and overnight lows below freezing. That constant freeze and thaw cycle can bring hazardous driving, especially when there is precipitation involved. Example: A weak warm front passes through that drops a quarter inch of rain in the afternoon and temperatures are around 40°. That rain is followed by a fast moving cold front in the evening that drops temperatures 15° in just a few hours. That means wet roads will quickly freeze over as air temperatures hover in the middle 20s.

This can also happen from spring snowmelt as runoff flows into the roadways during the day only to freeze over at night. A more rare event is freezing fog. That can be just as dangerous.

Here are some tips on how to prepare and avoid ice:

  1. Know the forecast. Understand where the temperatures will be before you head out and if there is a risk for ice.
  2. Make sure you have proper tires. While a total sheet of black ice can make any traction nearly impossible, winter tires are better equipped to handle ice.
  3. Watch for “wet” roads. When driving in the winter, understand that what looks like a wet road could be ice.
  4. Know that bridges and overpasses freeze before other surfaces. Here’s why.

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