The Science Behind Freezing Rain Explained

The fourth round this year of wintry precipitation hit the Coastal Bend Friday, as pockets of freezing rain created slick roads and icy conditions in some areas.

A large portion of the Coastal Bend was under a winter weather advisory by the National Weather Service because of freezing rain.

What qualifies it as freezing rain? According to Meteorologist Alan Holt, its rain or drizzle that turns into ice shortly after hitting an object that is at or below freezing. It can be dangerous because it only takes a small amount for it to become ice on the roads, especially bridges and overpasses.

On Friday morning, temperatures were within a degree or two of freezing, right at the threshold for freezing rain.

A common misconception about freezing rain is that it freezes instantly when it hits a surface. While it is possible for that to happen, it's not the norm. The time it takes for rain or drizzle to freeze to a surface depends on three things -- the temperature of the drop, the size of the drop and the temperature of the surface.

Because rain or drizzle does not freeze instantly, often you will see icicles develop. Whether it be freezing rain, sleet or, on the rare occasion, snow, wintry weather is not common in South Texas. While it did cause some problems on the roads Friday morning, it is neat to know at least some of the science behind freezing rain.

Friday night is expected to be cold, but not freezing, so the threat of freezing rain should be behind us in the Coastal Bend.


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