CHICAGO -- Sonny Skinner and a 4-foot chunk of ice crossed paths Thursday. The ice whistled downward from a Chicago skyscraper, missing Skinner by less that a foot.
"It's only by the grace of God that I wasn't killed," he said. Skinner cringed as shards of ice hit his legs, but then pulled his jacket over his head and ran.
Skinner was part of a seasonal ritual in Chicago that has people sidestepping, weaving or flat-out sprinting down sidewalks to avoid falling ice. Warning signs crop up around city buildings at the first freeze and remain until spring.
Skinner, however, was well outside the area roped off with yellow "Caution Falling Ice" signs. "They didn't do me much good right there," he said. "There's nothing they can do."
While most of the ice falls harmlessly to the pavement, one downtown hospital reported treating eight people for falling ice-related injuries Thursday.
Four of those injured suffered lacerations that required stitches, but all of the injuries were considered minor, said Dr. Demetrios Kyriacou at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
And in the Windy City -- where ice can fall, say, 40 to 60 floors and get blown sideways the length of a city block before crashing to the ground -- such accidents can have tragic consequences.
A Wisconsin family settled a $4.5 million lawsuit last year after a microwave-size piece of ice fell from the Neiman Marcus building, crushing the skull and vertebrae of Donald Booth, 48. He was killed instantly.
Chicago lawyer David Wise, who represented Booth's family, said his office is usually handling a case involving falling ice.
New York and Minneapolis also report injuries from falling ice. In central Moscow, with its many slanted roofs, people die every year, horribly stabbed or smashed by icicles. And in Kiev, Ukraine, hundreds of workers with shovels, ropes and crowbars try to avoid the problem by climbing on roofs to loosen accumulated ice and snow.
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