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Weather Talk: We become Southerners when snow falls early

A few years ago, when traffic was stalled for an entire weekend in the southern cities of Atlanta and Birmingham by a mere 2 inches of snow, we Northerners laughed. But the reality is we Northerners are not so good at driving on our own snow when it falls early in the fall, and it is not just a matter of "getting used to it" again.

When the temperature of the ground is significantly warmer than 32 degrees, and a burst of snow falls just as the air and ground temperatures drop below freezing, the half-melting snow freezes on road surfaces and creates a treacherous icy layer underneath the accumulating snow.

For most of a Northern winter, the ground temperature is below freezing, so this flash-freeze doesn't happen. But under just the wrong circumstances, which are far more common during a Southern winter, road conditions can be so bad there is no way to safely drive a car.

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

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