New Castle News

January 29, 2014

Wind, snow create rare ‘snow roller’ display

Mary Grzebieniak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — What’s shaped like a donut, made of snow and could appear on your lawn out of nowhere?

A snow roller, says the National Weather Service.

The recent frigid winds and snow have combined to create a meteorological phenomenon known as “snow rollers,” according to the weather service, and Lawrence County residents are beginning to notice them.

Sarah Davis of Old Route 422, Portersville, said that when she first noticed the odd formations, she thought her grandchildren had rolled snowballs for snowmen but not finished them. Then she heard about the snow rollers and realized her son’s yard next door was full of them.

At the North Beaver Township Municipal Building on Route 108, the formations can be seen from the road. Large and small, they have formed all around the building, near the township’s cannon and in the playground area, as well as along the front drive.

Some have even formed on people’s roofs.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania the Associated Press reported Venango County residents woke Monday to find hundreds of the natural sculptures in their yards, gardens and fields.

JoAnn Heckathorn told The Derrick of Oil City that “beautiful columns” the size of jumbo rolls of paper towels were everywhere in her yard.

According to the National Weather Service, a snow roller is rare and created when chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind.

The shapes are often hollow, and the conditions need to be precisely right for them to form, according to the weather service. For example, wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not so strong they’re blown too fast.

Weather service records from various states note the snow rollers can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a 30-gallon drum, but typically average 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Some residents said the shapes resembled bowling balls, while Charles Keith of Franklin described “500 Tootsie Roll-like” forms in an empty field nearby.

Nancy Graham, 68, said her yard is covered with the rare forms, and that it’s something she had never seen before.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)