WEATHER: Rhode Islanders reporting “thundersnow”

By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News

Rhode Islanders from East Providence to Wakefield and Newport have reported seeing lightning during Friday's blizzard.

A little research revealed the phenomenon is called "thundersnow" and is extremely unusual. Typical thunderstorms rarely occur at temperatures that would support snowfall.

So how does thundersnow happen? In really basic terms, it happens when there's a clash of warm and cold fronts or a "sharp atmospheric division." Of course, there are several more complicated ways to explain how thundersnow happens.

The other thing about thundersnow is that people in areas that experience it can rarely hear the thunder — the snow acts as an acoustic buffer and absorbs most of the sound. So what you're left with is a strange, perplexing lightning storm with snowfall instead of rain.

Even Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel gets excited about thundersnow.

Have you seen lightning during the blizzard? Tweet to us about it @WPRO. 

For detailed forecasts and up-to-the-minute closings and information, visit our Operation Snowball page.