How to safely remove monster icicle
February 3, 2011 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Giant icicle mass on a wire and over a walkway: how do I get rid of it?

I just realized there's a GIANT icicle clump hanging off of (what I assume are) electrical wires over our driveway. It's got to be six feet tall and two feet across.

I'm concerned that it will fall on someone and/or damage the wiring. It's in a low-traffic area and I can let the rest of the house know to avoid walking there, but I'd like to get it taken care of.

Should I call the electric company? A . . . tree service? Money is pretty much no object with this, but I don't even know where to start.

The building is a duplex built in about 1850, in greater Boston, Massachusetts.

Thank you in advance to anyone who has advice on what to do or who to call.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should call the electric company. They will be able to advise you on how to proceed, and will generally be grateful for the advance notice of perceived problems.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:28 PM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do you have access to a B.B. gun?
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:28 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can call your local fire station, too.
posted by halogen at 7:32 PM on February 3, 2011

There might be city people to do this, as well.
posted by rhizome at 7:33 PM on February 3, 2011

That is almost certainly on the electric company's side of the meter, thus it is their wire and their problem. They should have a 24-hour emergency line listed on your bill somewhere. Call that number, and tell them what's going on.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:37 PM on February 3, 2011

Seconding the electric company. I was on hold with them to deal with a power outage several times today, and I distinctly remember one of the menu options being "report a safety problem with power lines".
posted by true at 7:37 PM on February 3, 2011

Thanks, everybody!

I called the electric company and used true's "report a safety problem with power lines" language, which prompted the robot lady to ask for my zip code, which begat a message that I should call the city's electrical department, which is closed for the night. I left a message and will call again first thing tomorrow.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 7:50 PM on February 3, 2011

As someone who grew up in Alaska I can verify: those are really dangerous.

At some point in the melting process, they will fall. People can get seriously hurt. Definitely do not let anyone walk back there until it's taken care of. Put up a sawhorse, or a folding chair with a sign or something.

Alternatively, if the icicles continue to grow (as indicated by your HORRIFYING weather forecast out there!) they could easily pull down the wires. Then you and your neighbors would be without electricity. This is not a good time to be without electricity.

(When I was a kid, one of my jobs was to go outside and whale on icicles with a hoe or a shovel to knock them down. Higher icicles can also be hit with rocks, if you're careful. I would NOT try that in this case, since you could potentially bring down the wires. That would be bad.)

Call your electric company's number right now. At the very least you can leave a message, and they may dispatch a team out on an emergency basis.
posted by ErikaB at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2011

My neighbor had an ice situation very similar to that. He is handy around the house. He got on a ladder with a blow torch and melted the darn thing. I was watching from my window with beer in hand for the entertainment value of him doing something dangerous and stupid and to be able to call 911 to get him help. He melted it from the bottom up. When it got real small and near the wire, he stopped with the torch and whacked at it a bit. He left it with about a toilet paper roll size of ice on it. I do not condone what he did. But it worked.

To me, the issue is ongoing. Until the circumstances of what caused the icicle to form change, it will reform shortly after it is taken down. You need to figure out a way to redirect the water that is dripping on it so that it does not form again.
posted by AugustWest at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2011

Can you post a picture of the wires where they meet your telephone pole and house?

Assuming they are electric, put a large thing under the icicle so no one stands beneath it and gets conked.

Call your electric utility and ask them to come look at it and take care of it if it's their wire.

Do not try to knock the icicle with a broomhandle or spray it with a hose. Both of these are good ways to get electrocuted.
posted by zippy at 8:10 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

(I didn't see the photo link earlier, but that looks like an electrical line)
posted by zippy at 8:13 PM on February 3, 2011

Don't do anything. Call the power company. Please, don't get zapped.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have a Barbecue pit? If you can build a fire in it far enough away from the house, yet near enough under the icicles to melt them, that might work. Seems at least a bit safer than a ladder and a blowtorch. I live in New Orleans, where we were horrified to have a few teensy specks of sleet yesterday, so I have no actual icicle removal experience.
posted by artychoke at 9:05 PM on February 3, 2011

I was thinking a hair dryer and extension cord rather than blow torches and fires. Looks like you might even be able to get to it from the window...? Anyway, be careful whatever you do.
posted by zoinks at 12:48 AM on February 4, 2011

There is a problem with your gutters/roof drainage. Get that fixed, too.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 4:46 AM on February 4, 2011

I am an Electrician. Wow, that is a dangerous situation.
Thankfully, I live in Florida, so I have never dealt with something like that.

You need have this dealt with immediately. If those wires ever came loose, the potential for starting a fire or killing someone is very high.

From the picture, it looks like the icicle forms after the connections at the weather-head. In Florida, that would mean that the power company is not responsible, and you need to hire an electrical contractor. If the power company does not help you for free, please do not just blow this off, hire an electrician to deal with it.

The suggestions above about BB guns and blow torches are incredibly ignorant and dangerous. That wire is a main feeder into your house, and has at least 100amps, maybe 200amps, constantly streaming through it. A bolt of lightning is a single discharge of approximately 120amps. Those wires, if they get nicked or burned or damaged, can become a serious hazard. If you ever got shocked by those wires, it would kill you.
posted by Flood at 5:20 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I called the city to follow up. The dispatcher recognized my voice and told me that someone had already been out to look at it. She said that it's not something the city would deal with (because it's the wires connecting to the house), and that it's the electrical company's problem.

I called the electrical company and talked to a CSR there; she said that they would send a team out.

I'm not terribly confident that they'll fix it, so I'll start looking for electrical contractors. Flood, thank you for your comment - the professional opinion and terminology is tremendously helpful.

Thank you to everyone who offered, um, creative solutions, but the ice is way too big, and the house way too old/fragile, for me to try any self-help measures.

AugustWest and I'm Doing the Dishes: thanks for pointing out that this risks being a recurring problem. I will start working on the gutters as soon as I get the ice-on-the-wire resolved.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 7:34 AM on February 4, 2011

can you put a safety cone or something under it temporarily, just to keep people from walking beneath?
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2011

Oh yeah! And we put a trash can under it last night to deter people from walking in Icefall Danger Zone.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 9:23 AM on February 4, 2011

I just grabbed this tip from Fine Homebuilding, by a contractor who frequently works on scaffold under roof eaves. Take a length (say 4') of L-bracket and nail it just above the drip edge of the roof. The majority of the run-off will be redirected to the ends of the L-bracket. If you want it more at one side than another, give it a slight slope in that direction. This will be a cheap, fast way to get the water someplace else than the electricity.
posted by dhartung at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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