Well, That Was Odd

So there I was, driving back from an 0700 appointment at Ye Haus of Autos. The air temp was a blazing 21-24 F, depending on where the thermometer happened to be hiding. Thick fog covered the areas away from town, and thinner fog in town. The sky turned heavy, low gray at sunrise. The first wave of cold air had oozed in overnight.

As I drove back into town, white began to frost the sidewalks and road. Cars shimmied a little as they pulled out of parking lots and side streets. The road had become slick. This wasn’t the usual “some [unkind word] left the sprinklers on” ice on the sidewalks and gutters. The fog thickened as well, even though I was surrounded by developed areas. How odd.

Up ahead, snow slithered across the road, whirling up behind cars. Snow? Snow had not been forecast at all. I eased forward when the light turned green, and the rear of the truck shivered a touch even so. Very bad traction. I glanced off to the side, into the park, and saw the large rainwater pond there. A few ducks and geese basked on the unfrozen water. Then I turned my attention back to the road. There was my answer. Indeed, the snow disappeared and the fog thinned two or three blocks past the pond, and the pavement returned to its usual rough self.

Pond-effect snow. The water had not frozen over, and the wind was just enough to cause “lake effect” precipitation.

How it works: Fair Use under Creative Commons. Original source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/buffalo-lake-effect-snow-what-it-is-how-it-happens-1.2842119

This region gets orographic snow on a slightly different scale, but lake-effect isn’t as common, despite having a large lake. The canyon walls around the lake interfere with the airflow. What does happen is a north and south difference across the Canadian River Breaks, with more snow on the south side as northerly winds are forced back up onto the plains. It’s not as dramatic as Buffalo New York’s two meters (six feet) at a time, but it is noticeable if you look for it.

So I got to see lake-effect snow 60 miles or so from the closest official lake. I love Texas!

9 thoughts on “Well, That Was Odd

    • The ground has not frozen yet, and soil temps are in the 40s F. We get hoarfrost from fog rather than black ice. It takes drizzle or rain in February, if the ground has frozen by then, to get black ice. (Yesterday was 60. Today topped out at 38 and at the moment we are -2F with a windchill of -26F. )

  1. I started by thinking “ice fog,” but this makes sense too. Lake effect from saturated air, some distance downwind. Our local lakes don’t really have the wind patterns to deposit snow, but can drop ice fog over roads and viaducts.

    • Looks up the term. OooKayyy.

      That was last week for us. Live in the Intermountain West for interesting weather. (Still hearing the F15Cs flying around. Somebody’s crazy.)

      • LawDog and I have memories of a pogonip. He was working and I was driving home from Grad School. You know it’s bad when the semis on I-40 are all going five below the limit and not trying to pass anyone. When I saw the remains of a burned out big-rig and some other debris, I understood their wariness! That was a loooooooong drive home. (Although not as varied as being the only car on I-70, then on a Kansas highway, for over a hundred miles. You start to wonder about missed memos and so on.)

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