Icy pellets blanket San Antonio roads, rooftops

Correct term for snow-like substance is ‘graupel’

Author: Katrina Webber, Reporter, kwebber@ksat.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 12:36:49 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 06 2014 06:05:45 PM CST
Icy pellets blanket San Antonio roads rooftops
SAN ANTONIO -

A blanket of white weirdness covered the San Antonio area Thursday morning, taking many people by surprise.

While some mistook it for snow or sleet, the icy pellets are actually called “graupel.”

To Dottie Kinner, they looked more like Dippin’ Dots, a snack made up of colorful flash-frozen ice cream pellets that is usually sold at shopping malls.

"I came from Chicago and I never even saw it up there,” Kinner said. “Usually, sleet looks a lot different than this."

"I heard it about 4 a.m. and I knew that something was going on," she said.

Kinner rushed to capture the memory on her cellphone camera.

Other people, meanwhile, may have wanted to forget it.

Overnight flurries from the sky led to morning frustration on the roads — accidents and slow-moving traffic from drivers who were carefully creeping across the ice.

Eduardo Tapia decided to stay parked outside his Rogers Ranch home a bit longer than usual, allowing his car to warm up first.

"I realized it was snow and I was really surprised. I wasn't expecting this," Tapia said. “It is weird, but I like how it feels.”

Tapia felt lucky to have parked on the street, rather than in his garage.

The icy weather left the steeply slanted driveway of his home extra slick.

"My brother is the one who parks inside so I don't know how he's going to get out of there,” Tapia said.

For people who weren’t delayed by the snow-like substance, it came as a welcome sight.

The wintry blanket, though, wasn’t good for much other than pleasant appearances.

Building a snowman or snowball with the frozen pellets was difficult because they don’t hold together very well.

What is graupel?

Many people woke up to an interesting substance on their lawn. It looked like snow from afar, but up close it was different.

It's called "graupel" and it's caused when frozen precipitation, snow or ice crystals freeze together.

They're little balls of snow, but they're not hail or sleet. When falling rain is super-cooled, snow forms around the droplets. Ice cystals form inside, forming graupel.

Usually what happens is they fall and because they're soft, they break apart and that's why they look like dipping dots. The rain freezes around it.

Uou have a mix of snow an rain. The rain starts to freeze on the snow, so instead of looking like snow flakes, it looks like a ball.

Images: Sleet, freezing rain hit SA

Published On: Feb 06 2014 07:23:13 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 06 2014 03:23:15 PM CST

Check out some pictures sent in by KSAT viewers of the sleet and freezing rain across San Antonio Thursday morning.

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For a list of recent stories Katrina Webber has done, click here.