Unusual weather system moves through area

PARKERSBURG – It wasn’t sleet, and it wasn’t hail. It was grauple.

Fall temperatures and precipitation combined with a burst of freezing air in the atmosphere Thursday afternoon to shower the valley in a mix of weather conditions.

Shortly before 1:30 p.m. Thursday, weather ranging from sleet in Parkersburg to hail in Boaz and snow in Williamstown and Marietta was reported.

“Those reports you’re hearing, they likely were grauple,” said Joe Merchant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Merchant said grauple sometimes occurs in the fall and early winter months as we transition between the seasons. While surface temperatures remain well above freezing, sometimes blasts of super cold air can move through the atmosphere.

In the case of the Mid-Ohio Valley, a “wave” of super cold air moved through during a period of precipitation. As those rain drops gathered together and froze, they formed grauple.

“It’s bigger than snow. It’s closer to hail than it is to sleet or freezing rain. Those are created by a different process,” Merchant said.

Phill Carroll, a resident of Homestead Drive in Boaz, said his back porch and yard were covered in quarter-inch ice pellets around 1:20 Thursday afternoon.

“It was like someone opened something above us and just dumped it out,” he said. “It didn’t last more than five minutes at most. It was wild, just that fast.

“And then all of a sudden it was clear as a bell.”

Carroll took a photo of what he believed was hail, and the photo was sent on to the weather service in Charleston.

“Oh yeah, that’s grauple,” Merchant said. “Unlike hail which tends to form round marble- or even golf-ball-sizes, grauple is much less uniform. The rain has sort of conglomerated and froze.”

Merchant said the phenomenon is sometimes known by a more common name, “snow pellets.”

“I’d still stick with grauple,” he said.

But what about reports of snow in Williamstown and Marietta?

“Those likely were legitimate,” Merchant said, noting equipment at the Wood County Airport registered snow around 1:30 in the afternoon.

Despite the chilly blast and some overnight temperatures which dropped into the 20s, Merchant said the area actually is on track for a warm up next week.

Merchant said highs today should be in the upper 40s and overnight in the upper 20s, while the weekend will be mostly sunny with highs in the mid to low 50s.