KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – There are four main types of winter precipitation in East Tennessee. All of those could produce different situations, starting with rain.
Rain is often the easiest to forecast in the winter. Snow melts from the clouds as it encounters warmer air and it hits the ground as liquid. East Tennessee frequently gets rain in the winter.
What about sleet? Everything starts as snow in the clouds and as it falls down, it encounters above freezing temperatures and the snowflakes turn into what we call sleet pellets which are little chunks of ice. Not hail, but just little chunks of ice. As it hits the ground, that’s what it feels like, you kind of hear it pinging off the cars. Sleet is dangerous if you get a lot of it.
Keep in mind sleet and hail are not the same thing. We mostly talk about hail in the springtime.
The most dangerous type of winter precipitation is freezing rain. It starts as snow in the clouds and as it melts, it goes above freezing, turns into water and then hits the ground as a liquid but freezes upon contact. That’s why trees and power lines come down and that’s why it is very hard to drive when you have freezing rain.
Snow can be dangerous, but it is also a lot of fun. If the column of air is cold enough from the cloud all the way to the ground and there is enough moisture, then we get snow.