Weather Why Wednesday: sleet, snow, or freezing rain


Weather Authority - Tori Shaw
Web Editor - Amanda Roberts

As the temperatures drop, a few rainy days can turn into hazardous weather events. Winter brings the beauty and the beast in the form of ice, sleet and snow. The trip to the ground and the source of the system determines if we will be playing in the snow or sliding on the ice.

When temperatures fall below freezing through all levels of the atmosphere, water droplets fall as snowflakes. But there are different kinds of flakes.
Did you know that where the storm system originates dictates what kind of snow you see? A storm from the Gulf of Mexico brings the moisture with it and gives us large fluffy flakes, optimal for making snowmen. If the storm clips through from the North, there's not as much moisture so we get the light dusty flakes that melt very easily. Now, the storms that come from the West are the ones that bring the mix of rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The ice storm of 2009 is a painful reminder that ice is not so nice. As the rain arrived, it remained above freezing until it hit the ground that was below 32 degrees.  Thousands of people were without power for days and weeks.
Sleet starts out as a snowflake, but on the way down, the flake moves through a layer of warmer air, melts, then refreezes into an ice pellet. Sleet can be just as dangerous on roadways as snow and freezing rain.
As winter approaches, no matter what falls from the sky being prepared is your best defense against the cold shoulder of mother nature.