Something Strange is Going On in Ohio

Snow Rollers 2In a winter of snow, ice, below-zero temperatures, fender-benders, and school closings, Nature sometimes creates its own form of entertainment.

Lake Superior has its giant ice balls. Canada has its frost quakes. In parts of the Midwest this year, we’ve experienced a phenomenon so rare that most people have never heard of it: SNOW ROLLERS, sometimes called Mother Nature’s snowballs. So rare are they that we haven’t seen them in these parts in forty-five years. In fact when people began to call the weather experts for more information, they were asked “What are they used for?”

Snow rollers are rare because they are created only under very specific weather conditions. First, the surface of the ground must be covered with an icy crust of snow on which new snow can’t stick. Then an inch or so of new, “packable” snow must fall over that crust. Finally there must be rather strong winds. The wind picks up a small chunk of loose snow (called a “seed”) and begins to push it along, picking up more snow as itSnow Rollers 6 rolls and leaving trails behind, as if an army of small children was building  snowmen—but without footprints. As long as the wind can push the weight, the roller keeps getting bigger.

Snow rollers vary in size (from golf balls to thirty-gallon drums) and in shape (some are spherical and others log-like). Often they are hollow and look like giant Lifesavers. The special ones look like ice roses, perfectly formed. Snow Rollers 5They have been known in regions as far away as central Europe, but they seem to like the Midwest a lot. They began in central and northern Ohio in late January and lasted for a couple of weeks.

This year, 2014, will go down in history as “The Winter of the Snow Rollers.” It’s been fun. I hope they don’t make us wait another forty-five years.

1 thought on “Something Strange is Going On in Ohio”

  1. Patti Tomashewski says:

    I agree, Connie. Loved seeing these snow rollers. Like a gift from God to make us smile during this long winter. I was trying to tell my kindergartners how rare these are, saying that as long as I lived (and told them how old I was) I’ve never seen them. They answered that they have never seen them either – in their 5 long years of life 🙂

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