FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- When we get to winter, you can expect to see some snow, but its source may not always be what you think.
Residents of far Western Allen and Paulding counties had to deal with snow Monday, but it was a type that may be unknown to some, industrial-enhanced snow.
This type of snow can happen without warning and can impact visibility and accumulate on roads, which Nichole Thomas with the Indiana Department of Transportation says it prompts an unexpected response from plow drivers.
"If it does cause a concern and start to accumulate on the roadway, it's no different from a snow squall or some other type of system that would come through without a lot of notice and we would do exactly what we normally do, which is dispatch our resources when and where they're needed," Thomas said.
What is industrial-enhanced snow exactly? It starts when you have an atmosphere that is cold but already saturated.
Then, warm, moist air from steam or any air from the factories is put into the atmosphere.
As the warm air rises, clouds and snow start to form.
Then winds above the surface blow the clouds downwind, and the snow starts to fall.
In our area, the main source of industrial enhanced snow is Steel Dynamics.
Steel Dynamics said in a statement that what you usually see in the winter is water vapor from their cooling towers, but they do have stacks at their facilities.
"The emissions from these stacks are typically non-visible year-round, and are always subject to our IDEM permits and testing requirements," SDI said.
The mills produce small amounts of greenhouse gases and particulates that water droplets form around.
Michael Lewis, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office explained,
"You see it with smoke, you see it with any kind of fire or anything like that. You have to have something in the air for those droplets to form on, it just so happens to be downwind of the industrial plants," Lewis said.
SDI and other industries like it have to comply with the clear air act in order to operate.
This keeps greenhouse gasses and particulates at a safe level according to the U.S. Government.
So if you live downwind of these facilities, don't be surprised if it's supposed to be sunny, but there's snow in your backyard.
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