Snow,Sleet, Freezing Rain – What’s The Difference?
A "Wintry Mix" that's how meteorologists are describing South Louisiana's precipitation possibilities today. If forecasters are correct in their assumptions you and I will experience light rain, light sleet, light snow, and freezing rain before all the falling water ends later today.
Most of us are familiar with snow and sleet but don't really know what makes them different besides the fact that you can hear one falling and usually can't hear the other. Both sleet and snow start as snowflakes in the upper atmosphere. The snow remains frozen from the cloud to the ground.
Sleet starts as snow high in the atmosphere, melts into a water droplet as it falls through warmer temperatures in the atmosphere but then refreezes before it hits the ground. The droplets refreeze as tiny pellets of ice and you can usually see them bouncing off of surfaces when they hit following their descent.
Freezing Rain may be the most troubling of the falling frozen precipitation varieties. The precipitation falls as rain but freezes on contact with surfaces that are below freezing. That's why bridges and overpasses are the first to be affected by an icing situation.
The freezing rain forms a thin film of ice on whatever surface it freezes. That could mean an icy coating on a roadway or ice accumulations on trees, branches, and power lines. Those bring different troubles of their own special variety.
Regardless, precipitation in any form poses unique problems for travelers. We suggest you check with Louisiana DOTD or local officials before you plan any trips through any portions of the state that will experience winter weather today.