It’s Hail! It’s Snow! Or is it?

On Monday, February 26th, 2018, my children and I were sitting at the kitchen table doing school work. Our lights flickered a few times, we had a brief power failure and when I looked out the sliding door, it was pouring rain. There were extremely dark clouds just above our home and then suddenly, the rain turned to hail. The hail was coming down fast and furious, and began to cover our patio, the swings on our play structure and the outdoor table and chairs. A thin layer of white ice started to form across the patio and I thought to myself “This can’t be snow!”, but it wasn’t like anything we’d experienced in Sacramento before. I immediately called my husband who works about 30 minutes away and asked if they were experiencing the same thing? Nothing… No storm, no rain, just clouds. So odd! How can weather be so different in two parts of town just 30 minutes apart?

I decided to log on to Facebook to see if anyone else had posted about this odd weather. It was then that I saw video footage of what looked like snow in our neighborhood and knew I wasn’t seeing things! This was so strange, this couldn’t possibly be Sacramento – this looked like Tahoe. Sacramento doesn’t ever have snow storms and we’re hardly prepared for severe hail and icy conditions.

Several people in our neighborhood showed video footage of this ‘snow’ which they said was about 4 inches deep, and then I saw photos of a shopping center close by to our home.

I turned on the news… The weather man stated that this was not in fact hail or snow. What Sacramento was experiencing was called graupel. What is graupel you may ask?

Here’s what I found on Google: “Graupel (German pronunciation: [ˈɡʁaʊpəl]; English: /ˈɡraʊpəl/), also called soft hail or snow pellets, is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2–5 mm (0.08–0.20 in) balls of rime.”

The following day I took a drive to the shopping center about 7 minutes away from my home. I honestly felt like I was in a different town. There was snow covering the grass outside the bank, and the shopping center still had thick graupel all around the parking area. My kiddos were so excited by this graupel, so I decided to stay and let them play for a while. About 20 minutes later, their hands were so cold that they needed to warm up again and we headed home.

It was a great start to our week and the perfect Science lesson for our homeschool studies.