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  • Andrew Pritchard

Snow Squall Slicing | January 15th, 2021

I had circled Friday as a potentially stimulating weather day a couple days earlier when I noticed the potential for snow squalls across the area. The presence of very cold air aloft along with a little sunshine and surface heating would lead to the presence of some low level instability and very steep lapse rates, otherwise known as the "oomf" that we typically associate with springtime showers and thunderstorms.

Instead of a blanket of gray producing a steady uniform snow in typical winter storm fashion, you end up with a very springlike sky, full of puffy cumulus clouds that grow vertically and then dump heavy cores of snow and graupel, sometimes accompanied by gusty winds. This can lead to a rapid reduction in visibility and road conditions, making snow squalls notorious for causing highway accidents and pile-ups.

They can also create fascinating scenes. Puffy cumulus with walls of white coming toward you, heavy snow with the sun shining, white out conditions, and more. I didn't really know what to expect, but it was a unique atmospheric setup locally on a Friday. Even if nothing noteworthy came of it, going for a country drive is certainly no bad way to kick off a weekend. There is plenty to be stressed about these days, and reminding myself how refreshing the outdoors are can be a challenge. It's nice when Mother Nature provides a little nudge.

After wrapping up the work week and having a little lunch, I decided to head out around 2 PM. I decided to just grab the entire storm chasing gear tote and pretend we were on a little storm chase. My VLOG from the experience can be seen here:

A few scenes...

Wind swept columns of snow falling from a newly developing snow squall:

Baseball sized snowflakes falling in the sunlight as a squall pulls away behind me:

Heavy snow core with a "snow foot":

Shelf cloud on the leading edge of a snow squall. This looks just like an approaching thunderstorm, but it's full of snow!

Back side of a snow squall:

A squall sweeps from right to left in front of, and toward me:

Snow plastered the southwest side of all objects across Champaign County:

The setting sun dips below the updraft base of a squall near Philo, IL:

The final scene before heading home. A plume of snow was glowing with the color orange as the sun hit the horizon behind me. The sky outside of the snow plume was a cool blue.

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SKYDRAMA | Meteorologist & Atmospheric Photographer Andrew Pritchard

I'm a meteorologist born and raised in the American Midwest passionate about forecasting and observing severe storms.

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