A rare phenomena occurring once every couple years around the world has hit parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio this week.
While driving along I-80 in western Pennsylvania on Monday, a huge cluster of what appeared to be rolls of toilet paper invaded the median of the highway. At first I thought they were stacks of snow covered hay. Later that day I discovered they were “snow rollers” and were so unusual that they became an online sensation on social media sites and regional TV stations.
Snow rollers are most common in mountainous or hilly terrain. Basically, strong winds pick up moist snow and blow it along the ground, eventually building a cylinder of snow, which is often hollow in the middle. When the snow roller grows too large for the wind to propel it farther, it stops.
Here are the optimal conditions for snow roller generation, according to the National Weather Service:
- Existing icy or crusty snow cover, so additional snow will not stick to it
- Additional wet, loose snow on top of the icy, crusty snow cover
- Wind strong enough to scoop out balls of snow and propel snow roller forward
- At least some slope to the ground
Snow rollers can be as large as barrels, as you can see in this photo from Du Bois, Pennsylvania captured by nature lover (and my sister) – Marianne Atkinson.
Needless to say, I wish I would have taken some of my own photos along I-80; but stopping for non-emergency reasons on interstates is illegal. In this case I'll just have to adopt a phrase used by Cleveland sports fans regarding their losing teams – “there's always next year.”
Have you ever seen a snow roller in person? Please share your experience with my readers!
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