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Heavy snow forces trees to topple, graupel blankets valley

One tree caught on video toppled feet away from a car and a group of people Tuesday.

The snow in Yosemite National Park is beautiful enough to be on a postcard but also dangerous enough to cause trees to topple over.

One tree caught on video toppled feet away from a car and a group of people Tuesday.

Since our last weather maker Yosemite has been pounded with four feet of snow.

China Peak has racked up more than 10 feet of snow in the last few days, five feet of that snow came down in just the last 24 hours.

And in the valley, you too may have thought you caught a glimpse of a winter wonderland.

People recorded what they thought was snow, sleet and hail, but for the most part it wasn’t.

Most precipitation falling from a cloud does start as snow, but once it gets to the air in our atmosphere, being in the 40s and 50s the last few days, which is well above freezing it begins to melt.

The small pebble sized droplets seen on the valley floor look white and opaque, so they are not sleet, which is frozen rain that looks clear.

So what is it? What’s known as graupel, it’s a snowflake that’s been coated with a layer of ice and is easily pressed and scooped.

Hail is bigger in size and has a hard surface from being melted and refrozen up in the clouds before falling.

Hail can melt and refreeze over and over again in large enough thunderstorms to produce hail the size of a grapefruit.

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