The ice storms that have been causing devastation in North America are of a type unfamiliar in Britain. Some of the measures now being taken to combat its effects seem even stranger.

The desperate efforts in Canada to restore power, in freezing conditions, to areas affected by the recent ice storms, have included the employment of specialist teams from as far away as Hawaii. They are specialists, of course, not in the field of ice, but in restoring power supplies.

"My friends think I'm nuts," said Tommy Yammoto, who is part of a team of volunteers from Hawaii. "I've never actually seen snow this close up before." He is one of many trying to cope with power lines that have snapped and now, according to one report, "droop and tangle like overcooked spaghetti".

An ice storm is an extreme form of hailstorm that occurs only in very cold temperatures. The hailstones may congeal into substantial blocks of ice, while snow may also freeze into large ice chunks, which provide an added danger as they fall from trees and the tops of buildings.

Dave Taylor, the supervisor of the Hawaiian team, said: "Except for the ice, we're doing what we would be doing at home. We've learnt a lot of new techniques for dealing with ice. I don't know how often we're going to get a chance to practice them." Then he went off in search of more gloves.