When we say Winter Weather, what comes to mind….SNOW! But not all winter weather is created equal. there are actually several types of winter precipitation. We have snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The kind of winter weather we get is determined by what is in the atmosphere above us.

The column of air above us has many layers. When all those layers of the atmosphere are below freezing, any precip falls in the form of snow. For sleet, you have a layer where the temperatures are over 32°, sandwiched between to freezing layers. So what end up happening there, is the snow falls initially, then it melts. The melting snow starts to become reshaped as it transforms into a rain drop, then boom, it hits more freezing air before hitting the ground. In this last layer, the melting snow refreezes but never returns to its original fluffy snowflake. It becomes more of a solid pellet. That is why we can hear sleet hitting the windshield. Lastly, freezing rain. Like sleet snow falls through a warmer layer and encounters a freezing layer before hitting the ground. What makes this different is that the melting snow turns entirely into a raindrop, because the warmer layer is much thicker than with sleet. Plus, the last freezing layer is so close to the ground, the rain drop never has a chance to refreeze.

Freezing rain gets its name because it is rain that literally freezes pong contact with surfaces. Thikn streets, cars, windows. Any object that has been subjected to subfreezing temperatures and has itself cooled substantially will easily freeze when the rain drop hits it. Freezing rain is 100% liquid, where sleet is more frozen. And freezing rain can only be freezing rain if it freezes upon contact.


Thursday will start with rain to the west, and move into Central Alabama by 9am and then through East Alabama at noon, and the rain will be gone by 3pm.
The area seen in pink is where there is the best chance of freezing rain and sleet mixture will be. The temperatures from highway 278 and south will stay well above freezing. It will just be a cold rain.


By Friday, even though the rain will be gone, the temperatures plummet as we move into Friday morning. The last time the air was this cold was February 2021. Moring lows Friday will drop into the upper teens and low 20s. Any remaining slick spots from Thursday will freeze and there is the potential for black ice Friday morning.

Temperatures will stay cold into Friday afternoon too. Some places in north Alabama will barely climb out of the 30 Friday afternoon.

Be sure to follow the CBS 42 Storm Team:

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Facebook: Chief Meteorologist Ashley GannMeteorologist Dave Nussbaum, and Meteorologist Michael Haynes