Weather Facts and Weather Myths Part 5

By: Meteorologist Bill Rentschler Email
By: Meteorologist Bill Rentschler Email

Cheyenne, WY (KGWN) - According to Forrest Gump, there's a lot of different kinds of rain...

"....Little bitty stinging rain...and big old fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath."

While Forrest says there's different of kinds of rain, there's actually only different kinds of raindrops. Raindrops come in all shapes and sizes. We've driven through rain where the drops are enormous and we've driven through rain where it looks like its misting outside, but what do raindrops actually look like? If you Google raindrops, or if you've seen clip art of raindrops, they kind of look like teardrops, but is that actually what they look like? National Weather Service senior forecaster Shawn Liebl tells us,

"It really depends on the size of the raindrop itself. Very small raindrops can be very spherical but once they reach a certain size and they're falling through the air they start to flatten out like a pancake. So larger drops become pancake shaped and as they fall if they get too large or are moving too fast they will actually get ripped apart into smaller, smaller raindrops."

There are several different ways that raindrops form, all of which are too complex to get too in-depth in this story, but in all those different ways, raindrops are never shaped like teardrops, so that belief is a myth.

The second topic I wanted to talk about was driving through flash floods. A lot of people think that they can drive through the standing water because it doesn't look very deep or because it's on a road that they've driven before so they know they can get across, but really this is a bad idea. We discussed in the first part of this series how flooding actually on average kills more people every year in the United States than any other weather phenomena. Over half of those deaths are vehicle related where someone thought they could just drive through the water.

"...as little as 6 inches of water can wash a low profile vehicle away and it only takes about two feet of water can wash almost any vehicle downstream and so really when you run into water you should turn around to stay safe. One of the other problems is we don't know, you don't know how deep the water is, even a road that you've crossed many times may look like its only a few inches of deep water, but if that road was washed out, which you can't tell it could be several feet deep."

You should never drive across a road that's covered in water because of a flash flood. You need to turn around and find a different route. As the saying goes, "Stay safe, turn around, don't drown"


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