Sunday, February 6, 2011


Thunderstorms with rain are very common in many parts of the world, usually during times of warm weather.  Thundersnow is much more rare but does happen on occasion. For some reason, it has happened several times in several different places this winter, including New York City, Boston, and Chicago.  Last night Vermont had something even weirder - Thunder-Wintry-Mix.

Ice and snow on trees atop Chipman Hill the day after the ThunderWintryMix.

Yesterday started out as a beautiful sunny day, the sort that is rare in Vermont this time of year.  As the day progressed, it seemed clear that a storm was approaching, but it seemed a bit different than other winter storms we've had this year.  I'm not sure how to define it except that everything seemed more 'defined' and crisp.  Apparently there was quite a lot of energy in this storm.  Instead of a gradual increase of snowfall, this storm came in fast.  We watched Snake Mountain disappear from Bristol, followed by closer hills, and before we knew it, our short cross country ski trip was enveloped in heavy snow.  Some of the snow was so heavy, it was even overloading the radar image on, generating red colors instead of the normal white for snow.

After the snow squall passed by, we went inside to eat dinner, only to realize later that it was raining!  It was quite cold, so some of the rain was freezing on contact (freezing rain).  It was disappointing that the few inches of snow we had during the squall was getting ruined, but the rain soon started to mix with sleet.  Then, we saw something very unusual - a flash of lightning!  A line of 'thunderstorms' was moving in, but these were no ordinary thunderstorms.  When we went outside to see what was happening, we were pelted with cold freezing rain, sleet, hail, wet snow, graupel, and everything in between.  Later, when the storm moved overhead, it switched to all wet snow, and twice lightning flashed very close to us, followed quickly by loud but also muffled thunder.  Lightning is different in snow though, this lightning was blue and color, and at least at night, the reflection of light from snow made the closer flashes literally blinding in intensity.

Throughout the storm we experienced snow of every intensity and texture, drizzle, rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail  (which is larger than sleet and usually only forms in thunderstorms), graupel, thunder, and lightning.  Burlington airport also reported freezing fog!  This was definitely the most diverse set of weather I have ever experienced in a half hour period.  Oddly though, there was no wind to speak of, unlike most thunderstorms.  The next morning some of the trees had a light layer of ice from the freezing rain and sleet, and every branch was caked with sticky snow.  The downside: this snow is not fun to shovel or scrape off of cars!  I also wasn't able to get any pictures of this weather event, though I was able to take some nice pictures of the forest after the ice and wet snow.



There's more snow on the way this week, but probably nothing like the weekend's crazy weather.  I'll be posting some more icicle pictures too.

For more on thundersnow in Vermont, see Matt Sutkoski's Weather Rapport blog.

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