File photo snow lightning thundersnow. Photo Credit: Yuri_Arcurs (iStock).

File photo. One instance in which a thundersnow can occur is when a thunderstorm is found on the leading edge of a weather front in a winter environment. When the storm front hits cold air, precipitation can turn into falling snow. While snow clouds are typically thick enough to block this occurrence from view, light precipitation or more powerful storms can be result in the phenomenon being seen. Photo Credit: Yuri_Arcurs (iStock).

An unusual type of winter storm, 'thundersnow' is exactly what is sounds like – thunder (and sometimes lightning) happening while snowfall is taking place. While the effects of these storms are rarely heard or seen due to the sound-damping quality of snow and the thickness of snow clouds limiting visibility above, that wasn't the case when a recent thundersnow rolled through Steamboat Springs.

As captured by Simon O'Farrell and published by 9NEWS, the video below shows a rather intense moment when a thundersnow delivers a flash of light, along with an earth-shaking rumble.

Thundersnow typically occurs in Colorado when a snowy storm front is moving through, often accompanied by a period of heavy snow fall and strong winds. This means that visibility during a thundersnow is often quite limited. It's also worth mentioning that thundersnow tends to produce lightning with a positive polarity, considered to be more destructive than the negatively-charged lightning that is generally produced by the standard summer thunderstorm.

If caught in a thundersnow, avoid objects that may attract lightning. This risk is one reason why thundersnow will result in temporary lift closures at ski resorts. It's also important to keep your bearings if visibility becomes limited. Avoid traveling through terrain when you're unable to spot landmarks and are unable to keep track of your path. Varying visibility and constantly changing terrain conditions make it crucial to travel with a compass and map that you know how to use during winter expeditions.

Editor's Note: Check with the National Weather Service website and for winter weather forecasts and warnings.

Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee manages the OutThere Colorado digital publication as the Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to rock climb, trail run, and mountain bike. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram at @spence.outside


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