CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – There are several winter precipitation types that we can experience here in north-central West Virginia.
Snow is precipitation, just like rain, except it happens during the winter or colder months.
This wintry precipitation occurs when the temperature is at or below freezing from the cloud all the way to the surface.
Sleet is formed when there is a warm layer wedged between the surface and the cloud.
The snow falls from the cloud, and then melts when it hits the warm, above-freezing, layer in the atmosphere.
It then refreezes just before it hits the ground.
To distinguish the difference between sleet and snow – remember, sleet has a beat. This is because sleet bounces off the ground , and sometimes, you can actually hear it.
Freezing rain is the most dangerous winter precipitation type because of its slippery nature as it sticks to the surface.
Like sleet, there is a layer of warm air between the clouds and the surface.
However, there is one major difference between the two precipitation types.
With freezing rain, the layer of warm air is much larger as there is just a small layer of freezing air just before the surface.
The snow melts into a raindrop as it enters the warm layer. Once the raindrop falls near the surface, it becomes supercooled and not yet completely frozen.
This means that it falls like rain, but once it reaches a cold surface – it instantly freezes.
Freezing rain is so hazardous because it can create black ice when it freezes onto the roadway. This makes it very difficult to travel. It can also add weight to trees and power lines, before potentially bringing them down.
To see the StormTracker 12 2020 Winter Weather Special in its entirety, click here.