Thundersleet, freezing rain, snow. All at the same time. At 0200 CDT.
The excessive weather was, in my opinion, excessive. After all, the normal pattern is for rain to change to freezing rain or a mix, then all snow as the cold air nose wedges in and thickens sufficiently to keep the snow frozen from cloud all the way to surface. That’s what all the textbooks show, and what the test questions want.
Alas that High Plains reality never read the textbooks.
The High Plains of Texas and Oklahoma are currently blanketed with thick clouds as waves of snow, sleet, freezing rain, cold rain, and “all of the above” drift through as bits of energy break off of a low pressure system. The meteorological craziness is thanks to three air-masses, one cool, one well below freezing, and a thin warm layer that advances and retreats from the south-south-east.
How thick the cold-air layer vs. the warm-air layer is determines what falls to the ground. This is what makes freezing rain so tricky to deal with, especially if you are flying anything weaker than a fighter-jet with “hot” wings*. How thick is the layer of freezing rain? Can you climb through it before you lose so much lift that you turn into an expensive brick? Most of the time, the answer is “no, and we’re not going to try, either.” Alas, I’m on the ground under the stuff, so I get to endure and grumble.
The forecast on Sunday was for snow and sleet (sneet) for central areas, snow to the west and north, and freezing rain to the east. Indeed, Oklahoma got freezing rain, and NM got lovely snow. I got woken up at 0200 on Monday to thunder, sleet, snow, and freezing rain. I will spare you my initial reaction, since I try to keep this place PG-13, but “Oh no, not freezing rain” was part of it.**
The morning stayed very, very dark. It wasn’t quite creepy dark, but the clouds certainly blocked the light of the sun.
Day Job started two hours late (yeah!) on Monday. The road condition even then varied from sporting to “good grief!” Snow I can deal with, but ice-snow glaze skating rink roads? I don’t have chains for the truck. I put it in four, assumed that Newton was out to get me, and averaged a blistering 25 MPH. The posted limits ranged from 35 to 50. Lane markings? Sand on road? Hah! Happily, with two exceptions, everyone else also erred on the side of caution, and the exception was given a very wide berth indeed.
By the time I left Day Job, the roads had gotten worse, because of the pot-holes in the ice. The city had sanded, but not everywhere, and the rough, slick ride made things a touch sporting still. The drug store was not overpopulated, and signs proclaimed early closing. The cold played a role, since it was 20 F with a wind chill of 4 F. I got home, parked the truck, and hunkered down. The clouds thinned enough that I almost, sort of, considered putting on my dark glasses, but opted not to.
The “weather frogs” are calling for snow, or sleet, or freezing rain, or a mix, maybe some plain rain on Thursday or maybe not, and cold until Thursday, or longer. Reading the forecast discussion is a bit like some horoscopes. The only thing missing is “if the waxing moon rises at the cusp of Virgo while the wind comes from the House of the Bear, then expect snow. If from the House of Scorpio, expect sleet.”
There will be weather. Beyond that? Who knows.
*Some jets can vent bleed air from the engines through the wings, heating the metal so that ice doesn’t form. This requires large engines, or small but powerful engines. Even with “hot” wings, enough ice can build up on the rest of the plane to increase mass to the point that weight and balance become big problems.
**I really did have an “I survived the ’07 ice storm” tee-shirt. It wore out. I don’t want another one, thank you. I like heat and light in my abode. A week without power was no fun, and we were lucky. There were some parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma that were six weeks without power.