Questions about sleet

Here’s what they taught us in elementary school (Northern Virginia, early 1960s):

Rain: water coming out of the sky
Snow: fluffy white stuff coming out of the sky
Sleet: tiny ice pebbles coming out of the sky
Hail: bigger ice bits coming out of the sky

Not from elementary school, but more or less contemporaneous:
Slush: a mixture of snow and water on the ground
Freezing rain: really cold water coming out of the sky that freezes when it hits the ground

More recently:
Wintry mix: a mixture of two or more of snow, sleet, and at least one kind of rain as defined above

When my wife and I lived in Bristol VA/TN which is at about 1700 feet above sea level, we saw hail a few times a year, I’d guess. It would generally be pretty spherical up to about penny- or nickel-sized, but if it got any bigger than that, the shapes would get more irregular. And it wasn’t just a winter thing; some of the bigger hailstorms we had were well into spring.

But everywhere else we’ve been, hail has been a rarity. Not quite mythical, but more like a once-a-decade event.

I’ve never heard anyone but me say, “it’s slushing outside”. But everyone knows what slush is, and sometimes it falls from the sky, and “it’s slushing” seems descriptive to me.

I would call tiny ice pebbles “sleet”, but I expect sleet to be wet and nasty, not just little bits of ice. Probably because it pretty much always IS wet and nasty when it falls here. I suppose the new term is “wintry mix”, but we used to just call that “sleet”.

Oh, and I’ve now seen hail a couple of time. But when I was young I never had, outside of photographs in my weather book.

I’ve only seen hailstorms in the middle of summer, as far as I know. Either that or I’m not paying attention, but hail I associate with warm weather.

“Sleet” to me is frozen rain. It’s pin-prickly and annoying as hell if you’re running in it.

Where? Location might make a difference re timing of hailstorms as well as frequency. I really don’t think we had any hailstorms in Bristol as late as May, and certainly not in summer. But mostly in early to mid spring, March and April, now that I think about it.

So don’t run in it! :laughing:

Chicago. It’s something I associate with severe thunderstorms.

Same here. Hail is a mid-to-late summer thing here in Saskatchewan, with strong thunderstorms.

That’s why there is specialised crop insurance for hail damage. One bad hailstorm can wipe out an entire year’s crop, right at harvest time.

For some reason I want to call it that too. It’s those very tiny ice pebbles or snowflakes that are white and fall very slowly, but are completely round unlike a snowflake. I’m not sure if they are actually tiny ice pebbles or just snowflakes that are so small you can’t see any structure. I think I may think it as sleet because it isn’t obviously ice or snow and so I assumed it was sleet as the only other option.

For me, sleet does not fall slowly. It comes down at pretty much the same speed as rain. What you’re describing to me sounds to what I would call “powdery snow” (which is not, looking it up, the same as what skiiers call “powder.”) This may just be a personal way I use to describe it and is not widely used beyond my lexicon. I think what you’re describing is listed in Wikipedia either as “snow grains/granular snow,” though I don’t remember coming across those terms in the wild. I use phrases like “powdery snow” or “big/fluffy snow” to describe the flakes or lack of flake structure.

Actually, now that I think of it, I’m probably describing something else. I’m talking about teeny tiny snowflakes that look like they have no form, but they do accumulate. Are you describing something that happens on the verge of freezing temps? I’m thinking of snow in frigid temps, when flakes tend to be quite powder-like with smaller -to-non-discernible flakes.

We were grateful here over the past couple of weeks of succeeding winter storms when the freezing rain turned to sleet. Made for much better traction.

We had a ton of sleet this past week, and I didn’t bother with removing it since it wasn’t slick. I figured the sun would melt it everything would be fine. Unfortunately, only part of it melted and much of what remains is like greased glass. I hit a slick spot while carrying coffee in each hand, and looked like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away. I dropped my coffee, the top came off, and it all ran out. I held on to Ms. P’s. She insisted that I drink most of hers. Now I’ve got to get a path cleared off for the mail carrier; luckily it’s only a few feet of the walk that got really bad.

More frigid temps, and maybe my descriptive vocabulary is different because the very tiny ball-seeming things don’t seem very powder-like but they are so small that the flakes are indeed hard to discern.

It seems to happen most often in firmly below-freezing temperatures where there is a still in the air. The merest breeze will dissipate them. When they fall on you they don’t seem to get you wet at all compared to larger flakes. They seem sort of like tiny dandruff in weight and size.

Google Image searching for “snow grains” shows things that accumulate on the ground that are not quite what I was envisaging, and I wasn’t able to determine if it was similar by the few pictures that were of it in the air, but in the air it didn’t seem dissimilar.

Non-Eskimos have 50 different words for sleet.

I looked up that list of Eskimo words for snow, once, and wasn’t very impressed. They were all things i have talked about as a skier, and they were mostly things i have words for. Like powder and corn snow.

Nah, it’s that they have 50 different kinds of precip that they apply the word ‘sleet’ to.