We were looking out the office window this afternoon at icicles hanging from the roof and, of course, had only one thought: can you really die from a falling icicle?
Considering the ongoing deep freeze, this seemed like a question that needed answering.
We've heard jokes/warnings about this for years. But, you know, really? Does that actually happen to people? So we decided to do a little research. And it turns out the answer is: yes.
Not that it seems all that common -- except maybe in Russia. It sounds like multiple people get clocked each year in Moscow by falling icicles that are "many meters" long. And just last winter there were reports out of a central Russian city that six people died over the span of three days from falling icicles.
That kind of untimely end seems much more rare here in the US. Apparently Chicago is especially prone to the problem -- maybe it's all the wind. (The sign in the picture on the right is from Chicago.) That last linked article also mentions that Minneapolis and New York City sometimes have this problem.
But all the news stories we turned up were basically anecdotal evidence. So we went searching through PubMed for something a little more systematic. We found one article on the subject -- but we couldn't get access to the text of it. Though maybe the title of the paper, published out of Turkey this past December, says it all: "Falling ice and snow masses: A rare mechanism of injury." Update: Check out Friendly Local Librarian's quick summary of the article.
By the way, the best -- and by best, we mean worst -- story we found about death by icicle came from a 1903 edition of the New York Times (emphasis added):
CASSOPOLIS, Mich., Jan. 27 -- Charles Daniels, a volunteer during the Spanish war, and since that time a policeman here, was killed last night by a huge icicle which fell upon him as he was making rounds and cut off the top of his head.
photo: Flickr user Jason McHuff
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