Black Ice: What You Need to Know

Icy Road SignLet’s get this straight.  There is “ice” and there is “black ice.”  Not all ice is black ice.

Here in Minnesota — and I’m sure anywhere else where news teams strive for drama — all ice on roads and sidewalks is black ice.  Actually, it is Black Ice — menacing, dangerous, undeserved — an entity unto itself.  You hear it in the reporter’s voice, the extra emphasis — a stage technique certainly taught in J school — an ominous emphasis on Black Ice!

Black ice is the stuff that forms in bitterly cold weather on roads when condensation such as that from car exhaust freezes on what would otherwise be a dry road.  It creates a thin, icy layer that blends in with the pavement making it nearly invisible, most often where cars idle such as an intersection.  This ice often appears black, but not necessarily so.

Beautiful Icy RoadNearly all other ice forms when precipitation falls and freezes or thaws and freezes on roads and sidewalks.  Sometimes it is dark or black, usually it is just grey or white…it is only frozen snow or slush…but in the world of today’s media, always striving for effect, it is Black Ice!  Make that BLACK ICE!!

Black versus white.  Dark, menacing, dangerous…exactly what the news needs.  It’s a cultural norm, after all.  Doesn’t the bandit wear a black mask, the cattle rustler a black hat, the Catwoman a black catsuit?  Yes!  (Although with moody stage lighting the catsuit might appear to be purple.  Don’t be fooled.)  Naturally, therefore, if you’re striving to make news out of ice, you call it Black Ice.

So join me, please…and haze the heck out of the smooth faced news hacks calling all that everyday ice Black Ice!

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