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Rare Snow Rollers Form Across Idaho

Recently, two Idaho residents named Dan and Dennis Robbins stepped outside after a snowstorm. They witnessed a surreal site: dozens of icy cylinders made entirely from snow, strewn across a hill with no sign of human interference.

According to CityLab, these unusual hollow formations are called snow rollers. (They're also sometimes referred to as snow doughnuts.) They're extremely rare, and only form in very precise weather conditions. A strong wind picks up a chunk of snow on a hill, bluff, or other inclined surface and rolls it along the ground. As the snow piece moves, it picks up even more snow, growing larger and larger until it's eventually too big for the wind to push it any further. The snow on the ground has to be the right mixture of wet and loose, icy and packed, for the accumulated mass to form a perfect wheel. In other words, the perfect (snow)storm of events needs to exist for snow rollers to blow into your own backyard. 

Throughout the past few years, snow rollers have been spotted everywhere from Washington State to Parkersburg, West Virginia and Norwood, New York. Last year, they popped up across Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. If you're lucky enough to see a snow roller in your own town this winter, take a picture. After all, they don't come along every day—and they won't last long. 

[h/t CityLab]

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All National Parks Are Offering Free Admission on April 21
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Looking for something to do this weekend that's both outdoorsy and free? To kick off National Park Week, you can visit any one of the National Park Service's more than 400 parks on April 21, 2018 for free.

While the majority of the NPS's parks are free year-round, they'll be waiving admission fees to the more than 100 parks that normally require an entrance fee. Which means that you can pay a visit to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, or Yellowstone National Parks without reaching for your wallet. The timing couldn't be better, as many of the country's most popular parks will be increasing their entrance fees beginning in June.

The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, maintains 417 designated NPS areas that span more than 84 million acres across every state, plus Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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Weird
Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes
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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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