A rare phenomenon called thundersnow was reported in the late hours of Thursday and early hours of Friday in the Northeast during the second wave of an intense snow storm that dropped up to 20 inches in some states.
Parts of New York, Connecticut, Massachusettes, Vermont and Maryland experienced thundersnow — a spectacle that combines falling snow with lightning and thunder, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The National Lightning Detection Network indicated that thunder paired with sleet and freezing rain was also observed in parts of New York, Connecticut and Massachusettes between 10 p.m. and midnight on Thursday, Carbin said.
“Thundersnow can be found where there is relatively strong instability and abundant moisture above the surface, such as above a warm front,” said National Weather Service’s Maureen O’Leary.
As warmer temperatures usually produce rain, the illumination of lightning followed by crashing sounds of thunder are uncommon through frozen precipitation, causing an exceptional spectacle that impresses even the most “seasoned” meteorologists.
While Weather Channel Meteorologist Jim Cantore didn’t flinch when ambushed by an overenthusiastic college student, the forecaster was famously captivated by the severe weather occurrence during a 2011 storm in Chicago and again in Pennsylvania later that year.
While regular snowstorms produce 1 inch of snow an hour on average, thunderstorms can drop 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour, O'Leary said.