Local News

Are Sleet and Freezing Rain the Same Thing?

Posted December 31, 1998

— Are the terms sleet and freezing rain interchangeable? They are not, and knowing the difference can help everyone better prepare for a winter weather event. WRAL-TV5 Meteorologist Mike Maze helps us straighten out what is what. FREEZING RAIN

"It starts off above ground as rain where the air is warm. As it falls into the cold air that is above ground, it instantly freezes on everything on contact," Maze said.

Freezing rain puts a glaze on everything, and is what tripped up the Triangle last week downing power lines, and making bridges and overpasses slick, causing fender-benders. SLEET

"Snow falls into a layer of warm air and changes into water - a raindrop. The raindrop falls into a layer of cold air and then re-freezes and turn into little ice pellets - what is called sleet. The sleet then falls to the ground," Maze said.

As sleet accumulates, the roads also become hazardous. Some Triangle residents tend to dismiss both sleet and freezing rain as non-events, believing if there is no snow, there is no danger - that is a mistake. BE PREPARED

Freezing rain causes havoc with power lines, so it is best to be prepared with flashlights, food and logs for the fireplace.

Maze says that motorists should respect anything that is frozen, because driving will be hazardous.

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