While fall leaves are beautiful, they also come with their fair share of hazards.
Wet leaves in particular can cause various hazardous situations.
First, wet leaves can be as slippery as black ice. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, a vehicle that normally needs 80 feet to stop may need up to 200 feet on wet leaves. This is especially true around sharp turns and winding roads.
Combine that with neighborhood streets being the biggest culprit for leaves on the road and that’s a recipe for a crash. Like driving on ice, slow down and allow extra distance between you and the car in front.
Slippery leaves also apply to sidewalks and driveways. Raise your hand if you've ever slipped because of wet leaves – I know my hand is raised. This is especially true on any kind of inclined surface, so watch your step.
Second, leaves can also clog storm drains, causing ponding on the roads and minor flash flooding. This increases the risk of hydroplaning.
A third leaf-related hazard is visibility, especially when the winds pick up and the leaves are blowing around. They can also stick to your car windshield, so make sure to clear them off before driving.
The fourth potential hazard is when the leaves are still on the trees and wet snow sticks to them. Wet snow is typically very heavy because of its high water content. That weight can be heavy enough to bring tree limbs down and produce power outages. Here’s a look back at Buffalo, New York's October Surprise storm in 2006, when the combination of leaves still on the trees and heavy, wet snow produced historic damage.
A fifth thing to consider is that leaves can also do damage to your home when they clog your gutters. My wife calls me the "gutter king," not because of what I say but because I’m constantly trying to clean out my gutters. A clogged gutter can cause water to seep the wrong way toward the house and potentially cause water damage.
Finally, be mindful of jumping into leaf piles. I know I’ve jumped into leaves and have built up piles for my son to jump into as well. However, please think of what might be in that pile, such as a fire hydrant or a large stick.
Much of this is just about awareness and understanding the hidden dangers. So go ahead jump into that pile or go for that fall drive. Just know they are things to watch for beyond those beautiful colors.