EXPLAINED: Precipitation Types and driving safety

Weather Wisdom

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – A Winter Storm Warning has been issued for the Twin Tiers and the system that is producing the warning will likely be the first significant winter storm of the 2020-21 Winter Season. Snow accumulations of over a foot are possible in parts of the area and with any storm like this, ice is inevitable.

We are not expected to see much, if anything, in terms of sleet or freezing rain. However, since they both result in ice, I wanted to discuss them. Freezing rain occurs when most of the air column above the surface is above freezing. This allows the precipitation to fall as liquid rain. The surface is frozen, so that rain freezes on contact with the ground. This causes black ice and makes travel nearly impossible depending on the amount. The next is sleet, the colder air is a little higher but it is still warm right at the cloud base. When the liquid rain falls, it will hit that cold air and freeze on it’s way down and fall as ice particles.

Finally, the last precipitation type and the one we expect to be the most impactful tomorrow, snow. Snow happens when the cold column extends all the way up to the cloud base, causing precipitation to fall frozen from the start. We are expecting large amounts of accumulating snow with this winter storm.

It is recommended that you try to avoid driving tomorrow morning, however, if you can’t help it, there are some driving tips you should hear to keep yourself as safe as possible. If you come across ice, keep your steering wheel straight. When needing to slow down, take your foot off the accelerator. Do not brake! Braking will cause you to slide and once you are sliding, you are at the whim of inertia. Obviously, take it extremely slow if you’re traveling at all.

Stick with 18 News on-air and online with the latest on this first winter storm of the season.

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