SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — As winter weather hits the state of Texas it can be hard to tell the difference between freezing rain, sleet and snow, but the National Weather Service explains.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain occurs when snowflakes descend into a warmer layer of air and melt completely. When the liquid water falls through a thin layer of freezing air just above the surface they don’t have enough time to refreeze before reaching the ground. This causes the liquid water drops to instantly refreeze upon contact with anything that that is at or below 0 degrees C, which creates a glaze of ice on the ground, trees, power lines, or other objects.


Sleet occurs when snowflakes only partially melt when they fall through a shallow layer of warm air. The drops are slushy, and half froze before they refreeze as they fall through a deep layer of freezing air above the surface. This causes the drops to reach the ground as frozen raindrops that bounce on impact.


Most precipitation that forms during winter starts out as snow because the top layer of the storm is usually cold enough to create snowflakes. Snowflakes are simply ice crystals that cling to each other as they fall toward the ground. Precipitation continues to fall as snow when the temperature remains at or below 0 degrees Celsius from the cloud base to the ground.