Big, fat flakes

During a brief snowfall Wednesday, the city actually saw larger snowflakes fall from the sky than what accumulated on the ground, according to the National Weather Service in State College.

While the snow on the ground accumulated to about 0.7 inches, some snowflakes in the area measured 1.5 inches in diameter, said meteorologist Paul Head. That size is the “upper limit” for snowflakes, he added.

“It made it exceptionally beautiful for today,” Head added.

Head explained that as temperatures dip closer to freezing, with an “optimum amount” of moisture in the air, it can create larger snowflakes.

“You’re getting as much moisture as possible that the temperature will allow,” he said.

Head described the process of the snowflakes growing to building a snowman.

“What happens is as the snowflakes are being made, they start bumping into each other. So since the temperature is so close to freezing, they start sticking together,” he said. “They keep sticking together like when you are making a snowman.”

The large flakes aren’t common during the winter, Head said, but rather when there are warmer conditions.

“It is something that we can look forward to seeing from now until spring,” Head said.

While the city may be hit with more flurries and short snowfalls, any amount of accumulation isn’t expected in the coming days. But he did say counties farther north, such as Tioga and Bradford, should expect a few more inches of snow.

Road conditions aren’t expected to be affected by the snowfall in the coming days, as it should disappear rather quickly.

Although they could be slick, treated surfaces shouldn’t be a problem, Head said. He doesn’t expect any “flash freezes” on roads as temperatures drop during the nights.

According to weather service records, the area has seen 27.1 inches, Wednesday’s snow included, this winter, which puts it about 1 inch behind the average.

The average for the months of December, January and February is 26.2 inches of snow, but as Head noted, the area sees snowfall outside of those months. The average for an entire year is 36 inches.

And residents can expect to keep seeing snow as the calendar turns to March.

“We’re still in a very cool pattern and there’s several opportunities for snow during the month of March,” Head said.

The long-range forecast is predicting March to have temperatures that are “below normal with above normal precipitation.” With such a forecast, Head said the area can’t rule out more snow.

Although there isn’t anything to suggest a large snowstorm is heading this way, Head used 1993 as an example of blizzards happening in March.

“There’s a potential for very large snowstorms in March,” he said. “But I’m not saying we will (get one this year).”