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This Just In: January 21 - 28

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Icicle Dangers!

Summary: There is a right way -- and a wrong way -- to remove those beautiful but hazardous frozen daggers hanging from your house. Reporter: John Shumway, KDKA Channel 2 Airtime: 3 minutes, 18 seconds on Jan. 12 Visuals: * Shumway pointing an ordinary flashlight at icicles hanging from a roof. * A time-lapse sequence distilling six minutes into 15 seconds, demonstrating the incredible melting power of calcium chloride! Highlights: * When anchor Ken Rice declares, "Drive down any street in your neighborhood right now, you'll find icicles hanging from homes, maybe yours. They can cause real damage to your house if you don't get rid of 'em, but there may be better ways [to remove] them." * When Shumway takes it away: "Yeah, they can also hurt a little bit if they fall on your head. But the problem is that these things ... if they're anywhere other than off the front of the gutter going across, then you've got problems, 'cause you're gonna get water back into the house." * As he narrates, "The definitive calling card of cold. This is what those Christmas icicle lights try so hard to imitate. Ironic, isn't it, that we emulate in the name of decoration something that can be so destructive?" * When a man from True Value advises, "Knocking off what's hanging over the gutter itself is fine, as long as you're not standing underneath of it. But you never want to get up there with a pick, with hammers, with chisels ... or taking a shovel and whacking a shovel at the gutter itself." * When Shumway adds, "Not to mention that you could easily fall being so rambunctious on a ladder. Instead, these white pellets are your best solution." * When True Value man instructs, "Put a solid stream [of calcium chloride pellets] all the way across the gutter itself. ... You're gonna hear [the ice] just like ... Rice Krispies: It's just gonna go snap, crackle, pop!" * When Shumway explains, "The calcium chloride works very fast. Often ... an hour later, the gutter is open and flowing." * When Shumway says that "[I]f your downspout is clogged, use a hair dryer, or for that matter, just a heat gun. But those are the only things that are recommended." What We Learned: All of us are in the gutter, but only some of us are looking at the icicles. Unanswered Question: Do we really need it repeated, as this story does, not to stand beneath icicles that are ready to fall? News Value: 4. I've never given thought to icicle removal this way before (karate chopping is more fun), so thanks for opening my eyes (just not directly underneath an icicle!). But given that this story ran over three minutes, a brief explanation for the weather conditions required to form super-sized icicles like this would have made it more interesting.

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