Winter weather can bring about a wide variety of meteorological phenomena, each having its own special characteristics and a wide-range of impacts. The following are some common types of winter weather:
Description: Snowfall occurs when atmospheric conditions are favorable for the creation of ice crystals in clouds. These ice crystals then combine to form snowflakes, which fall to the ground due to gravity and other meteorological factors.
Impacts: When snow accumulates on the ground, a wintry scene can result but this can often lead to all sorts of travel problems and the need for snow removal.
Description: Sleet is a cold-weather precipitation that falls as ice pellets. These pellets are smaller than hailstones but larger than rain droplets.
Impacts: Sleet can create slippery conditions on roads and surfaces, making travel hazardous. It also adds to weight of any snow that has already fallen and make it more difficult for the snow removal process.
Description: Freezing rain occurs when rain falls but freezes upon contact with surfaces that are at or below freezing temperatures. An ice storm is when freezing rain falls over a wide swath of geography and is particularly damaging and/or memorable.
Impacts: Freezing rain can lead to the accretion (basically ice’s version of accumulation when describing snow) of ice on roads, power lines, trees, and any and all other structures, causing hazardous conditions, slippery roads and power outages.
Description: A blizzard is a strong cold-season storm that has strong winds, low visibility, and/or falling or blowing snow. For an event to be classified as a blizzard, these conditions must persist for an extended period.
Impacts: Blizzards can result in whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous. Snowdrifts can pile high and cause snow removal to be very difficult, and the combination of low temperatures and wind chill can pose health risks.
Description: Frost forms when moisture in the air freezes directly onto surfaces, such as windows, cars, and plants. Black ice is a thin layer of ice on a roadway that is nearly invisible. Black ice typically forms when there is a light freezing rain or freezing drizzle or when a daily cycle of melting and refreezing occurs due to a snowpile or snowbank nearby.
Impacts: Frost can kill or damage sensitive plants if not taken indoors or protected. Black ice can cause slips and falls or skidding on roadways. Black ice is particularly dangerous because the person driving or walking does not expected slippery conditions because a) it wasn’t snowing or any other forms of precipitation and b) it is nearly invisible and very easy to miss.
Description: Snow squalls are brief but intense periods of snow. They can be formed by several different methods but one thing in common with all of them is that they drop visibilities to low, thus dangerous, levels.
Impacts: Snow squalls can cause slippery roads. Reduced visibilities on interstates and other roadways can be very hazardous for travel.
Understanding the different types of winter weather is crucial for preparedness and safety. It enables individuals, communities, and authorities to take appropriate measures to mitigate risks and respond to adverse conditions.