Graupel

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This past Sunday, I opened the door and let the dog out into warm (for this time of year), mild weather.
I went back in the house to get walking shoes, a jacket and the leash.
I opened the door to a wall of hail-like snow blowing up the hill, with wild, windy integrity.

Needless to say, I told the dog we had to wait.
He was not pleased.
I told him, if it was still storming in 10 minutes, I would get my hat and we would go out anyway.

Within 10 minutes, the storm was gone and the clouds were blowing out – headed in a south-easterly direction.

Later that night, the local news station (a starter station) had a TERRIBLE newscast.
They interviewed a bunch of locals at the gas station about a word no one had ever heard.
There were whole minutes of people staring blankly at the camera waiting for some sort of cue.

But, ultimately, since I was waiting for the PowerBall numbers, I did learn something.
This crazy snow-hail is called graupel.

merriam-webster.com – 
graupel
noun grau·pel \ˈgrau̇-pəl\
Definition of graupel
:  granular snow pellets —called also soft hail

Who knew?

Also, this morning, there were liquid rain drops on my windshield.
When the windshield wipers spread them out over the glass, the water froze –
into a thin sheet of candy ice.

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Ahhh…. and some days, I just get to talking about the weather!

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Flash-Snow in October

Engine white-noise creates an artificial silence in the navy-black sky, with shiny, diamond point stars.

The intercom beeps and the flight attendant’s even voice informs us that our 38 minute flight from Denver is now delayed. The weather in Casper has deteriorated rapidly, and the airport is now closed.

Collectively, the unanimous nap of the passengers becomes idle chatter concerning the news.

If we have to go back to Denver, let’s go now.

If we get to go home, it will be worth an extra 20 minutes of circling the sky.

Soon, the pilot’s voice comes up over the intercom and the message is repeated, as a matter of fact, with apologies for the delay and a thank-you for our patience. We are informed that the aircraft has been supplied with extra fuel. Visibility in Casper is half of a mile.

How much fuel is “extra” for a 38 minute flight?

The flight attendant offers us coffee and water. We again, go quiet, blanketed in the vastness of a night sky. Stars above us, and a pillowy cloud layer below.

“Ladies and Gentleman, visibility may have improved, slightly. We will be attempting the approach. We will be descending into Casper, but if it turns out we still can’t see, we will have to come back up and return to Denver.”

How close do you get before you know you can’t see?

“Your flight attendant will be through the cabin to collect any last items you may have. Please, be seated and buckle your seat-belts. We expect turbulence on our approach.”

Down into the cloud we go. Fluffy puffs from under us become sideways streaks of white, like an old TV station that doesn’t come in. We are a silent cabin of air travelers, jetting through the snowstorm at the speed of our plane.

The flaps creak, in a low mechanical moan of sound, extending out from the body of the wing.

We bank right. Leaning sideways, as our collective mass pivots through the sky.

Extended wing flaps seem like a sign of landing. Banking through the snowstorm could mean anything. There are no visual reference points for orientation.

Where are we now?

KA-THUNK

A half-inch of space is briefly created between the seats and the people in them, as we all jump. Then the space is gone, as we are all seat-belted in.

Landing gear.

Our voices remain absent. The snowstorm blasts past us in sideways streaks. We bank to the right again. All eyes trying to focus out into the fuzzy white outside.

Lights!

Runway lights!

Is it cold enough for the runway to be icy?

Like the collaborating cells of an organism, we sit back in our seats, as the wheels touch down. The gate agent waits to greet us with a rolling staircase, taking us to the ground.