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Messy Monday: Precipitation Types and Timing - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Messy Monday: Precipitation Types and Timing

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As temperatures begin to rebound, we get a messy start to the work week. Two low pressure systems will pass us. The low to the north is transporting arctic air, while the low to the south has warm air with it. We just so happen to be right in the middle. Therefore we have the chance to see all four major types of precipitation. That is rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.

Before we get into the timing, it's worth mentioning how each type of precipitation forms.

Rain & Snow
Most all precipitation starts out as snow. Unless an extremely warm air mass is in place, high in the cloud the precipitation is cold enough to fall as snow. In the warmer times of the year, the air all the way to the ground is above freezing and therefore the snow has a long time to melt into rain as it reaches the ground. In the colder months as temperatures reach freezing or below at the surface and above the snow will make it's way down to the ground without melting.

Sleet

Sleet forms when there is a shallow layer of warm air between the cloud and the surface. This allows the snow to melt as it would with rain, but the deep layer of freezing air between the warm layer and the surface will cause the water droplets to freeze into ice pellets. Sleet doesn't pose as big of a threat as freezing rain. However, the added ice to surfaces can cause difficult driving conditions.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain happens when there is a larger vertical layer of warm air between the freezing temperatures near the cloud and freezing temperatures as the surface. As the snow melts into rain it falls all the way to the surface, as rain. However with surface temperatures at freezing or below, the water freezes on contact leaving a layer of ice. This is especially dangerous on roads, and can also cause tree limbs and power lines to become weighted down and fall.

(Image Courtesy: National Weather Service)

Now, on to the timing for Monday...

It's likely that we could be getting a little of each of these as this system moves by. It will be a quick hit, however be prepared for slippery driving conditions through the morning commute of Monday.

As the Cold front to the north and the warm front to the south surround us, temperatures will still be below freezing. However the warm layer of air over us will allow for the first drops of rain to fall onto freezing surfaces. Therefore we should all start with a quick hit of freezing rain. Ice will accumulate on all surfaces that are freezing, including roadways. The good news, is this will occur very early Monday morning and will move on quickly. 



As the bulk of the morning rush gets going, the cold front will be passing the Bluegrass. As the cold front passes, the layer of warm air will be diminishing, and we will likely see some sleet as the front passes. On the backside of the front, freezing air will penetrate from cloud to ground and the precipitation will fall as all snow for the Bluegrass. However, at this time, the freezing rain and sleet will be hitting the southeastern counties.



By late morning/midday, the temperatures will begin warming above freezing and the entire column of air over the state will become warm enough to support rain. It will be cold rain, but the chances of ice diminish as the surface warms above freezing. Road conditions will improve by the afternoon of Monday.

As we progress into the afternoon/evening, the rain will start coming to an end. Some leftover moisture may drop a few showers late in the day/evening. Therefore, we could get a second shot of freezing drizzle or snow flurries as the sun disappears and temperatures begin falling again. 

By Tuesday, all precipitation will cease and the sun will come out. The warmer air will melt off any remaining ice.

Remember to download the FREE StormTracker Weather App to get the MaxTrack Live Doppler Radar in the palm of your hand! That way you will always know what type of precipitation to expect!

- Meteorologist Seth Phillips 

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