Snow or no snow? Weather expert weighs in on the Illawarra’s icy storm

It might have looked a lot like snow, but a weather expert says the white stuff that blanketed parts of the Illawarra during Thursday evening’s storm was most likely icy rain.

While many were convinced it had snowed, using social media to report white cover in their suburbs, the air temperature at the time meant it wasn’t cold enough for snow to settle.

Weatherzone senior meteorologist Jacob Cronje said conditions on Thursday night were “very cold”, and there were isolated instances of “frozen precipitation”, but no reports of snow had been received.

Mr Cronje said the temperatures recorded at the time the storm rolled in suggested the ‘snow’ was more likely to be freezing rain.

“I can’t see temperatures below zero degrees [recorded in the region], but the air mass above us at the moment over the eastern interior [of Australia] is very cold,” he said.

“Even though the surface wasn’t particularly cold, the air above us is and any precipitation that fell through that fell through some freezing layers of the atmosphere. 

“The freezing level was very close to the surface.”

Small hail was reported in a number of suburbs. Melting hail can often be mistaken for snow.

The storm had more bark than bite – delivering plenty of thunder and thousands of lightning strikes, but very little in the way of rainfall.

Just one millimetre of rain was recorded at Wollongong’s Bellambi weather station to 9am on Friday, while 3.2mm fell at Albion Park and Kiama had 2mm.

Mr Cronje said there were more than 200 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a 50km radius of Wollongong during the storms, a number that was “a lot for winter”.

Coupled with the cloud-to-cloud flashes, there were more than 3000 strikes in total, he said.

Looking ahead, the cold conditions are expected to hang around over the coming days. 

“Bowral, Albion Park and those places are quite likely to see below zero temperatures on Saturday and Sunday,” Mr Cronje said.

“Temperatures along the coast of around six degrees [are forecast] and that’s only really going to start warming up overnight significantly from about Tuesday.

“Monday evening, into Tuesday morning should see warming conditions generally.”

FOUR-DAY FORECAST 

Wollongong

  • Saturday  Min: 8°C  / Max: 16°C 
  • Sunday    6°C  /16°C  
  • Monday   6°C  /17°C 
  • Tuesday 10°C  / 20°C  

Albion Park 

  • Saturday  Min: 4°C  / Max: 16°C 
  • Sunday   1°C  / 16°C 
  • Monday 2°C  /17°C 
  • Tuesday 6°C  / 20°C 

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