'Freak' Snow Falls in Panhandle

Almost half a foot of snow fell in parts of the Panhandle yesterday, and experts say it's the steam from nearby power plants to blame.
by Victoria Price

AMARILLO, TX -- Think mankind can't control the weather?

You may want to think again...

Nearly half a foot of snow fell in parts of the Panhandle on Monday, and weather experts say the steam from nearby power plants is to blame.

The freaky snowfall was prompted by a rare weather condition called an 'inversion.' That's basically when a chunk of warm air gets sandwiched between sections of very cold air. And according to meteorologist Ron Roberts, this kind of phenomenon is a very rare site to see.

"The
 steam plume comes off the stacks, hits that inversion, is super-cooled in the atmosphere and begins to fall as snow downwind," according to Roberts. "It's been years since we've seen this, you've got to have all the right conditions."

Yesterday's snowfall was significant enough, it was detectable by Doppler radar. Roberts says interesting events such as this can raise interesting questions about the science of weater.

"Human beings CAN create weather. We can modify our weather," he says. "I suspect what's so exciting is to see that, could we somehow find a way to, in the future, make snow here in West Texas, when it otherwise wouldn't naturally fall?"

Roberts says under just the right conditions, the Jones Generation Plant east of Lubbock could create a small snowfall. But, the stacks there aren't nearly as tall as the ones that created the snow outside of Amarillo.
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