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Snow, Sleet, Hail, & Freezing Rain Facts

When I was young, I loved snow for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason I loved snow was that it created the potential for getting a day off of school. Of course, sledding, building snow men, snowball fights, and just watching the snow fall were great pastimes, especially if done while enjoying a day off school. Unfortunately, where I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, there was never enough snow for my liking. I recall vividly laying in bed on a school morning listening to the AM radio hoping to hear a report of a school closing. Usually, it would be raining at my house while the announcer would report that kids at schools in the northern and western counties would be off for the day. Only my parents were happy about that.

Later in life, I still enjoy the snow, but after living for years in Vermont and upstate New York, my definition of great snow is mostly that which I can see on the distant mountain tops while my driveway is clear. The days of having a four-month-long layer of packed snow on my driveway and road in front of the house is past. I sure would have loved it forty years ago, though.
How Much Snow is Made With 1" of Rain?
Average Snow:           10" (25 cm)
Heavy, Wet Snow:       4 to 5 (10-13 cm)
Dry, Powdery Snow:   15 (38 cm)

Sleet: Precipitation of small, partially melted grains of ice. Sleet occurs only during the winter, while hail, a different form of icy precipitation, may fall at any time of the year.

Freezing Rain:
Precipitation that begins as snow falling from a cloud towards earth. It melts completely on its way down through a layer of warm (above freezing) air and then supercools in a small layer of cold air just before it impacts the surface. Due to being supercooled the water freezes again upon impact.

Precipitation composed of chunks or lumps of ice formed in strong updrafts in cumulonimbus clouds. Individual lumps are called hailstones. Most hailstones are spherical or oblong, some are conical, and some are bumpy and irregular.

Formed when water vapor turns to ice crystals either in the clouds or on the way down to Earth.

Winter Storm Watch:
Issued under changing weather conditions, when the specific timing, location, and path of an approaching or forming storm are undetermined.

Winter Storm Warning:
Issued when more than 6 inches of snow, a significant ice accumulations, or a dangerous wind chill (or any combination of the three) is expected within 24 hours.

Blizzard Warning: Issued when sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or greater, in combination with considerable snowfall and poor visibility is expected for three hours or more.

Northeaster (aka Nor'easter):
A storm that typically produces heavy snow and rain and generates large waves in the Atlantic costal regions, often causing beach erosion and structural damage to buildings. Wind gusts can exceed hurricane speeds.

The best place for getting snow, IMHO, is on the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We lived both in Colorado Springs and in Loveland (just south of Ft. Collins), and the nice thing about snow there is that a foot of it will fall one day, and it will all be gone three days later. Due to the arid environment and high altitude (a mile+) the melting snow would evaporate immediately and not generate the muddy mess that you get in the northeast. Additionally, the thin air creates the right condition for sublimation whereby the snow passes directly from the frozen state to the gaseous state without passing through the liquid state. Again, no muddy mess.

Hail Classifications
H0 Pea size, causes no damage
H1 Leaves and flower petals punctured and torn
H2 Leaves stripped form trees and plants
H3 Panes of glass broken, auto bodies dented
H4 Some house windows broken, small tree branches broken, birds killed
H5 Many house windows broken, small animals injured, large tree branches broken
H6 Roof shingles destroyed, metal roofs dented, wood window frames broken away
H7 Roofs shattered, autos seriously damaged
H8 Roofs totally destroyed, small tree trunks split, people seriously injured
H9 Concrete roofs breeched, large tree trunks split/knocked down, people at risk of fatal injuries
H10 Brick structures damaged, people killed

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