A Sleet Storm

Driving back from the Kansas City Airport this morning, I encountered a sleet storm along Interstate 70, having developed on the backside of this week's massive winter storm.  Stretching for more than 50 miles along the highway and driven by a strong north wind, the swath of heavy sleet decreased visibility and produced a slippery surface on the roadway.

Unlike hail, which forms in the cold upper layers of thunderstorms and eventually falls to earth when gravity overcomes the force of the updraft, sleet forms as rain or partially melted snowflakes fall through a cold layer of air near the ground, refreezing into small ice pellets that coat lawns, fields and roads.  Freezing rain, generally more common and destructive than sleet, refers to liquid rain drops that freeze when they contact cold objects or surfaces (tree limbs, fence posts, cars, roads, etc.).

Needless to say, driving was treacherous in the midst of the sleet storm.  Unfortunately, the greatest danger arose from drivers that did not heed the conditions, racing by in the passing lane; as usual, SUV owners and truck drivers were the primary offenders and many of them paid the price, their cars, jeeps and sixteen-wheelers soon littering the median and grassy margins of the highway.