Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska and Minnesota Industrial Plants Produce Snow

Chris Dolce and Brian Donegan
Published: December 5, 2018

Industrial power plants produced snow in Indiana, Kansas and the Cleveland metro area Tuesday as a blast of cold air engulfed the Midwest.

Heat and steam from industries near downtown Cleveland enhanced a localized snowband, which satellite and radar imagery showed extending southeastward, steered by northwesterly winds.

Dubbed the "downtown-Cleveland-enhanced" or "Cleveland-effect" snowband by the local National Weather Servive office, it was seen lowering visibility on some highways in the metro area. A few places picked up minor accumulations of snow.

Steam rising from the industrial plants sent warm, moist air into the colder air in the clouds, allowing the snow crystals to form.

This a similar process to how lake-effect snow develops: a warm moisture source rises, and that rising air then cools and condenses into clouds that can generate snowflakes under the right conditions.

Parts of northeastern Indiana, including Fort Wayne, also experienced industrial power plant-induced snow Tuesday. The NWS in northern Indiana issued a series of special weather statements warning residents of "a band of industrial plant-induced heavy snow."

One of the statements noted the snowband had produced periodic heavy snow and visibility as low as a half-mile along U.S. Highway 30 between Fort Wayne and Columbia City, Indiana. An observer near Arcola, Indiana, measured 1.5 inches from this industrial power plant-induced snow.

Northwest of Topeka, Kansas, a coal power plant produced snow Tuesday. The steam released from the plant near St. Marys, Kansas, resulted in flurries and light snow across Shawnee County, Kansas, including the city of Topeka.

Industrial plants also produced snow in Minnesota and Nebraska Monday into Tuesday.

The most persistent industrial plant snow on Monday fell in eastern Nebraska, where it even accumulated in some spots.

The plume of snow could be seen extending southward from the industrial plants located near Norfolk, Nebraska, in this radar image from Monday.

(MORE: Air Traffic Causes Snow Near Chicago)

Doppler radar image showing the plume of snow in various blue shadings originating from industrial plants near Norfolk, Nebraska, on Monday.

Steam exhaust from those plants continued to produce snow and freezing drizzle Tuesday morning, with winds steering the plume toward Omaha, according to the NWS. A winter weather advisory was even issued by the NWS for Tuesday morning due to the possibility of slick travel conditions in eastern Nebraska and adjacent parts of southwestern Iowa.

An emergency manager in Madison County, Nebraska, said the plume was producing large snowflakes Monday. Up to 2 inches of accumulation was reported near Leigh, Nebraska, which is about a 30-mile drive southeast of where the plants are located near Norfolk.

Minnesota also had light snow associated with an industrial plant on Monday.

Satellite imagery showed snowfall triggered by a refinery southeast of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro. A weather observation station southeast of the Twin Cities in Stanton reported light snow for an hour Monday afternoon, according to the NWS.

Although it's not a common sight, industrial plants fueling snowfall does happen from time to time.

We documented another case of steam from a mine causing snow to develop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last December.


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