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Recent Hailstorm Is Colorado’s Most Expensive Catastrophe Ever

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No storm that brings baseball-sized hail is going to be easy to deal with, but Denver’s recent thunderstorm proved to be a costly one. The May 8 hailstorm is the most costly insured catastrophe in the state, The Washington Post reports.

According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, insurance claims in the state related to the hailstorm—for damages to cars and homes, for instance—cost as much as $1.4 billion. More than 50,000 homeowners filed claims, as did 150 car owners. That makes it the most expensive catastrophe in recent history for Colorado insurers.

Its costs easily surpassed those of previous storms. Adjusting for inflation, one of the most expensive storms for insurers on record before this, which took place in July 1990, cost $1.1 billion, and the second-most expensive storm, back in July 2009, cost a mere $845.5 million in today’s dollars.

Damage caused by the torrent of ice, which included baseball-sized hail, was worse than usual because it fell during rush hour, which means there were plenty of cars on the road when the windshield-crushing precipitation came down. At another time of day, some of those cars might have been inside garages and out of harm's way.

Recent research has found that extreme weather is becoming a more frequent occurrence across the world, and according to scientists, climate change will continue to increase the likelihood of extreme events like massive heat waves and intense storms. That's bad news for insurance companies: More frequent and more powerful storms mean that insurers are going to have to pay out a whole lot more money for damages than they used to.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Weather Watch
Thanks to Desert Dust, Eastern Europe Is Covered in Orange Snow
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Certain areas of Eastern Europe are starting to look a bit like Mars. Over the last few days, snowy places like Sochi, Russia have experienced an unusual snowfall that coated mountains in orange powder, according to the BBC.

The orange snow was the result of winds blowing sand from the Sahara east to places like Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. The sand mixes with precipitation to form orange-tinted snow. According to the BBC, the phenomenon occurs semi-regularly, turning snow orange about once every five years, but this year is especially sandy. As a result, skiers are navigating slopes that look like they're from a different world, as you can see in the video below from The Guardian.

The Sahara rarely gets snow, but when it does, the landscape can look somewhat similar, as you can see in this image of the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

Instagram is currently filled with photos and videos from Eastern Europe featuring the odd-looking snow. Check out a few samples below.

[h/t BBC]

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Weather Watch
What Is Thundersnow?
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images

The northeastern United States is dealing with its second major nor'easter in a week, with rain and heavy snow—and the associated power outages—cutting a path across the Mid-Atlantic and New England. But news of the adverse impacts of the snowstorm is being accompanied by an unusual buzzword: thundersnow. Thundersnow occurs during a thunderstorm that produces snow instead of rain. The mechanisms that produce rainy thunderstorms and snowy thunderstorms are largely the same, even if the air temperature is below freezing.

A band of snow can become strong enough to produce lightning through two processes known as convection and forcing. Convection occurs when an area of warm air quickly rises through cooler air above it. Convective snow is most common during lake effect snow events like those you’d find on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, since the process requires extreme vertical temperature gradients that can result from bitterly cold air flowing over a warm body of water.

Forcing is slightly different. A strengthening low-pressure system involves fast, dynamic changes in the atmosphere, especially when one of these storm systems quickly gains strength. Such a fast-developing storm can cause large amounts of lift in the atmosphere, a process that forces air to swiftly rise like you’d see during convection. This creates intense bands of snow that can grow so strong that they produce thunder and lightning. This process is responsible for the thundersnow that occurs during blizzards and nor’easters, those powerful storms that regularly hit the eastern coast of the U.S. during the winter. Thundersnow can be pretty exciting—just ask The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore:

The name “thundersnow” can be a bit misleading. One of the most enjoyable things about a snowfall is how silent it is outside when there’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Snow absorbs sound waves so efficiently that you can usually only hear ambient noises immediately around where you’re standing. Snow muffles the sound of thunder for the same reason. Thunder that might be audible for many miles during a rainy thunderstorm might only be audible for a few thousand feet away from where the lightning struck. Unless the lightning strikes very close to where you are, you might only see a bright flash during thundersnow without ever hearing the thunder.

While thundersnow is a fascinating phenomenon to encounter, it does involve lightning, after all, and it’s just as dangerous as any other lightning bolt you’d see in a rainy thunderstorm. If you’re ever lucky enough to experience thundersnow, the event is best enjoyed indoors and out of harm’s way.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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