Do You Know the Difference Between Sleet and Freezing Rain?
Central New York gets a lot of inclement weather this time of the year. Two of the more common types, sleet and freezing rain, are often misunderstood.
We recently gave you an easy hack for removing ice from the windshield of your car, and now we're back with some valuable info about sleet and freezing rain. Knowing and recognizing the subtle differences may ensure your safety, whether you're driving or just walking around town.
The main difference is determined WHEN the water freezes. Sleet usually begins as a snowflake in the clouds. As it falls, it melts into a rain drop, then it re-freezes. So, sleet is simply falling ice pellets.
Like sleet, freezing rain often starts off as a snowflake in the cloud, and then melts as it begins to fall. The atmospheric temperatures are warm enough to keep it in its liquid form all the way to to the ground, but cold temps ON the ground turn it into ice on contact.
Freezing rain causes more hazardous navigation. Since sleet is already frozen when it falls, it can be easily plowed, while freezing rain forms a coating of ice on roads, cars, trees and power lines, making it much more difficult to remove. A few inches of sleet is not a huge deal, but even just half an inch of freezing rain can spell big trouble.
And one more fact: there's also something called graupel (soft hail or snow pellets), which is precipitation in the form of water droplets that collect and freeze on falling snowflakes and arrive in little chunks.
Here in Central New York, we get it all.