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Thundersnow!

John Farley

Supporter
Tonight in Santa Fe, NM, where we are spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I observed one of the most impressive thundersnow events I have ever seen. For a period of about 5-10 minutes, there was frequent lightning, one to two or more flashes per minute, and most of it very close - only a second or two between the lightning and the thunder. The thunder was not as loud as it normally would be from such close lightning; perhaps the snow muffled the sound somewhat. The lightning began suddenly (though we had seen a few distant flashes earlier in the evening) about 20-30 minutes after the snow began. The snow had become quite heavy before the lightning started, and became even heavier after the lightning stopped as suddenly as it had started. I think the burst of lightning may have been associated with an intensification of the storm. The heavy snow lasted about an hour, from 10:15 to 11:15 p.m., roughly, during which time we got about 3 inches of snow at our location.
 
I have just read a SPC MD indicating a convective snow event occuring just NW of the tornado event. According to the MD, plentiful CG lightning is being observed along with the heavy snow in central KS! What an amazing system this one is! :shock:
 
Thanks, Chris. I was already aware of the project, and reported it last night, same report as I made here. Since there are likely other thundersnow events occuring today, I would encourage anyone who observes thundersnow to follow the link Chris posted, and make a report.
 
You know, I've never seen a thundersnow event in a forecast or an hourly observation. I've seen it in AFD's and SPC MD's, but forecast/obs text just mentions snow. I was looking for thundersnow observations in the Plains yesterday, but I did not find any. I would think an event this rare would bring more attention by local weather offices.

Has a thundersnow cell ever met SVR warning criteria? I assume it could be for winds in excess of 58 mph.
 
You know, I've never seen a thundersnow event in a forecast or an hourly observation. I've seen it in AFD's and SPC MD's, but forecast/obs text just mentions snow. I was looking for thundersnow observations in the Plains yesterday, but I did not find any. I would think an event this rare would bring more attention by local weather offices.

Has a thundersnow cell ever met SVR warning criteria? I assume it could be for winds in excess of 58 mph.

One of the most incredible events I've seen would be the thundersnow and thunder freezing rain event in northern KS southern/eastern Nebraska on 8 March 2002. This was a day I actually chased in Central KS... Jay Antle and I targetted the McPherson area... and we saw a nice convective tower develop off in that vicinity late afternoon... but as we approached... we saw this fog bank ahead. It was the leading edge of one of the most impressive shallow arctic airmasses I've seen. It crawled through the area slowly.... with about a 40 degree differential over the span of just a few miles. ~10 to 12C dewpoint air was advecting northward over this shallow arctic airmass...leading to convective storms in far northern KS and Nebraska... a couple even SVR warned... with temperatures in the upper 20s. Here are some obs from KS and NE I dug up from the Plymouth University site metar archive...

KHLC 082353Z AUTO 35018G25KT 1SM -TSSN BR FEW001 OVC008 M04/M04 A2970 RMK AO2 TSB46 CIG 005V012 SLP078 P0000 60000 T10441044 11028 21044 53036

KSLN 090153Z 34025G34KT 5SM TSFZRA BR FEW001 BKN010 OVC041 00/M01 A2963

KHSI 090053Z AUTO 33024G30KT 1/4SM TSSN FZFG VV003 M07/M07 A2976

KGRI 090053Z 32021G29KT 1 1/4SM -TSSN BR BKN008 OVC014 M06/M07 A2978

KOLU 090135Z AUTO 34020G28KT 1 1/2SM TS OVC001 M04/M06 A2972 RMK AO1 LTG DSNT ALQDS TSE00B03

KTQE 082354Z AUTO 36014KT 2SM TSFZRA BR BKN006 OVC011 M01/M01 A2971 RMK AO2 TSB42 CIG 003V008 SLP068 P0006 60006 T10061011 10000 21022 53002

KTQE 090154Z AUTO 6SM -FZRA BR FEW009 OVC017 M02/M03 A2965 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT ALQDS TSB22E47UPB13E41FZRAE13B41 SLP047 P0004 T10171028

KTQE 090254Z AUTO 1 1/4SM TSUP BR FEW005 BKN015 OVC022 M02/M03 A2974 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT ALQDS TSB12E26B31UPB12E19B47FZRAE12SNB19E47 SLP081 P0007 60028 T10221028 53011

KLNK 090254Z 34022G27KT 2SM -TSPLSN BR FEW013 BKN028CB OVC046 M03/M04 A2973

KOFF 090355Z 36014G23KT 1 1/2SM TSFZRASNPL BKN003 OVC005CB M01/M01 A2967 RMK TS OHD MOV NE FRQ LTGICCCCACG WND DATA ESTMD SLP059

KOMA 090352Z 35019G29KT 1SM TS FZRAPL BR FEW012 BKN023CB OVC055 M01/M02 A2970

Mike U
 
David-

Yes, there has been at least one case. 2 or 3 years ago, a line of thundersnow storms formed along a cold front in southeast Iowa and western and central Illinois. Several SVR warnings were isssued by ILX, and some of them verified with wind damage reports. The storms actually looked on radar like an ordinary line of thunderstorms, but all of the precip associated with them was in the form of snow. There have also been a couple instances of brief tornadoes in lake effect snow squalls in the Great Lakes region, though I do not know if these specific cases were associated with thunder. However, lake effect snow squalls are one of the more common (for a rare phenomenon) thundersnow situations.
 
Thundersnow

One of the most incredible events I've seen would be the thundersnow and thunder freezing rain event in northern KS southern/eastern Nebraska on 8 March 2002. Mike U

I was driving from our family farm to the town of Henderson, NE during this event. It was incredible. Near white-out conditions with lightning strikes, small hail (maybe sleet) and snow blowing in strong northerly winds.

Gene
 
I've never experienced thundersnow. :( Living in the Memphis, TN area, we barely get to experience snow period... I get excited to see snow flurries around here!

I'm guessing usually the snow is heavy during a thundersnow event, but has anyone ever seen the lightning channel? Visibility probably makes that near impossible, unless you happen to be close to the strike. That would probably be amont the rarest of photos, a CG in a snow storm.

Scott
 
Originally posted by John Farley
David-

Yes, there has been at least one case. 2 or 3 years ago, a line of thundersnow storms formed along a cold front in southeast Iowa and western and central Illinois. Several SVR warnings were isssued by ILX, and some of them verified with wind damage reports. The storms actually looked on radar like an ordinary line of thunderstorms, but all of the precip associated with them was in the form of snow. There have also been a couple instances of brief tornadoes in lake effect snow squalls in the Great Lakes region, though I do not know if these specific cases were associated with thunder. However, lake effect snow squalls are one of the more common (for a rare phenomenon) thundersnow situations.

I remember that event, it was back in Feb 03, but I don't remember any SVRs for those speed demons. It was over in like 5 minutes! :lol:
 
Originally posted by John Farley
Tonight in Santa Fe, NM, where we are spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I observed one of the most impressive thundersnow events I have ever seen. For a period of about 5-10 minutes, there was frequent lightning, one to two or more flashes per minute, and most of it very close - only a second or two between the lightning and the thunder. The thunder was not as loud as it normally would be from such close lightning; perhaps the snow muffled the sound somewhat. The lightning began suddenly (though we had seen a few distant flashes earlier in the evening) about 20-30 minutes after the snow began. The snow had become quite heavy before the lightning started, and became even heavier after the lightning stopped as suddenly as it had started. I think the burst of lightning may have been associated with an intensification of the storm. The heavy snow lasted about an hour, from 10:15 to 11:15 p.m., roughly, during which time we got about 3 inches of snow at our location.

The only time I experienced violent thundersnow was during the Super Storm of 1996. There was intense thundersnow, with almost continuous lightning. Nearly complete white-out conditions existed as well, and we ended up getting 3-4 feet of snow-an all time record. During this event, driving was not allowed except for emergencies. I've never seen a snowstorm this bad in my life. :shock: :shock: :shock:
 
Thundersnow is so striking, and surprises many people who are unaware of the event. I have only heard it once, and it is totally awsome.
 
I've seen thundersnow once, in E TN during the Superstorm of 1993. The thunder woke me up and I was like "what the ****". Got up just in time to see a very muted lightning bolt in heavy blowing snow :shock: . In Norman a few years back, we had a convective freezing rain/sleet event, when the frozen precip hitting the hotel window woke me up (I guess that would have been thundersleet? :shock: ) . That was pretty freaky, too.
Angie
 
The first thundersnow I ever witnessed was in the December '87 blizzard. I was only in fifth grade at the time. I remember it was snowing heavily as I went to bed that evening, and was awaken after midnight to howling winds and crashing thunder. I remember looking out my window and it was snowing and blowing so hard I couldn't see the neighbor's house across the street. I distinctly remember sleet mixed in too, I could hear it hitting the windows. The winds were gusting up to 60mph. The lightning was quite frequent too as I remember.

Man, I would love to see the surface map, a satellite image, or a radar image from that night. I still haven't seen anything like that since.
 
Originally posted by Joel Wright
The first thundersnow I ever witnessed was in the December '87 blizzard. I was only in fifth grade at the time. I remember it was snowing heavily as I went to bed that evening, and was awaken after midnight to howling winds and crashing thunder. I remember looking out my window and it was snowing and blowing so hard I couldn't see the neighbor's house across the street. I distinctly remember sleet mixed in too, I could hear it hitting the windows. The winds were gusting up to 60mph. The lightning was quite frequent too as I remember.

Man, I would love to see the surface map, a satellite image, or a radar image from that night. I still haven't seen anything like that since.

I pulled up the "Daily Weather Map" for December 15, 1987... It shows a fairly impressive compact SFC low of 980MB over LOT with an impressive precipitation shield (along with sustained SFC winds of 30-35KNTS). General QPF amounts on the cold side of the storm were .75 to 1.00 inches, with some areas getting close to 1.25 to 1.50 inches for storm totals (particularly near the IA/IL line, and southern WI). The system basically looks like what was seen over the Northern Plains with this past system...

EDIT (NWS Information):

December 15, 1987
A powerful winter storm produced 6 to 12 inches of snow in an area from Quincy to Rockford to Chicago. Winds gusting as high as 75 to 90 mph produced blizzard conditions, downed power lines, and drifted roads closed. Snow totals included 11.4 inches in Rockford, 9.1 inches at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, 11.2 inches in Moline, and 8.9 inches in Peoria. The storm system also produced thunderstorms which lasted from 2 to 4 hours, an unusual length of time for a winter storm. The thunderstorms also produced sleet and hail, with 3/4 inch hail reported in Joliet.

MKX - December 14-15, 1987 - South half - Blizzard (gusts to 73 mph) - 10 to 17 inches of snow. Madison and Milwaukee had 13 inches.
 
Originally posted by Angie Norris
I've seen thundersnow once, in E TN during the Superstorm of 1993. The thunder woke me up and I was like \"what the ****\". Got up just in time to see a very muted lightning bolt in heavy blowing snow :shock: . In Norman a few years back, we had a convective freezing rain/sleet event, when the frozen precip hitting the hotel window woke me up (I guess that would have been thundersleet? :shock: ) . That was pretty freaky, too.
Angie


That might have been the event that I am recalling, for sure.
 
Originally posted by rdewey+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(rdewey)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Joel Wright
The first thundersnow I ever witnessed was in the December '87 blizzard. I was only in fifth grade at the time. I remember it was snowing heavily as I went to bed that evening, and was awaken after midnight to howling winds and crashing thunder. I remember looking out my window and it was snowing and blowing so hard I couldn't see the neighbor's house across the street. I distinctly remember sleet mixed in too, I could hear it hitting the windows. The winds were gusting up to 60mph. The lightning was quite frequent too as I remember.

Man, I would love to see the surface map, a satellite image, or a radar image from that night. I still haven't seen anything like that since.

I pulled up the "Daily Weather Map" for December 15, 1987... It shows a fairly impressive compact SFC low of 980MB over LOT with an impressive precipitation shield (along with sustained SFC winds of 30-35KNTS). General QPF amounts on the cold side of the storm were .75 to 1.00 inches, with some areas getting close to 1.25 to 1.50 inches for storm totals (particularly near the IA/IL line, and southern WI). The system basically looks like what was seen over the Northern Plains with this past system...

EDIT (NWS Information):

December 15, 1987
A powerful winter storm produced 6 to 12 inches of snow in an area from Quincy to Rockford to Chicago. Winds gusting as high as 75 to 90 mph produced blizzard conditions, downed power lines, and drifted roads closed. Snow totals included 11.4 inches in Rockford, 9.1 inches at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, 11.2 inches in Moline, and 8.9 inches in Peoria. The storm system also produced thunderstorms which lasted from 2 to 4 hours, an unusual length of time for a winter storm. The thunderstorms also produced sleet and hail, with 3/4 inch hail reported in Joliet.

MKX - December 14-15, 1987 - South half - Blizzard (gusts to 73 mph) - 10 to 17 inches of snow. Madison and Milwaukee had 13 inches.
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I remember that morning. It was the last day of school before Christmas Break, and Boom! Canclelled, no class Christmas Party! The lightning was vivd, frequent, and cloud to ground, like a summer thunderstorm. It was sure wierd at that young age to be waking up to violent thunderstorms in December, with snow even. I remember the thunder shaking the house! 9.1 inches at O'hare? The magic number for school closings was 8 :D No wonder I don't remeber having a class Christmas party in 1st grade. :?
 
I have never seen thundersnow do any of you guys have any pics if so please show them off it would defenitly be something to see. We don't get many snow storms out here in Texas and I have spent many years in Colorado living through both the blizzard of 1982 and the blizzard of 98 with countless snow storms and never once in that time did any of them produce a single current of lightning that I ever saw. I must have been in all the wrong snow storms.
 
My dad has witnessed thundersnow while driving through north central Arizona on US-66 / I-40 (Flagstaff area). I was too young to remember it. However, I have witnessed thundersleet. I think it was in December, 1990 (day unknown, but it happened during the late evening). It was about 8 or 10 degrees F outside; a potent storm blew in rapidly and dropped about 3" of sleet on the ground. Frequent CG lightning strikes were happening as well, with a couple hitting within a 1/4 mile of my location.
And... in January 1988, a powerful snowstorm moved across central Arkansas and dropped 15 to 20" of snow. It caused schools in my area to be shut down for almost 2 weeks! Whether or not there was any lightning with the snowstorm remains to be answered. I have heard reports about it but I guess I slept through it :? .
 
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