WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Snow can have different characteristics when it is picked up by the wind. The main two are blowing snow and drifting snow. At a glance, you may think they are the same thing but there are some differences.
Blowing snow is lifted from the surface by the wind at a height of 8 feet, or higher, which reduces visibility. Blowing snow can be dangerous because it is possible after snow has stopped falling. Fresh, light, powdery snow can be picked up by the wind and reduce visibility. Blowing snow can also lead to snow drifts or banks built up by the wind.
The main difference in drifting snow is that is lifted from the surface by the wind to heights of less than 8 feet. Drifting snow also does not reduce visibility as much as blowing snow.
When driving in wintry weather, visibility is typically the lowest when falling snow accompanies blowing and/or drifting snow. The sun can also have an impact on snow to reduce visibility further. When sunlight shines on areas of blowing and/or drifting snow, the light reflects off the snowflakes and can make visibility even worse. A few things to keep in mind as we continue through our winter season and the storm at hand today.
-Meteorologist Ronelle Williams