Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, January 12, 2018

Light pillars on January 11; January 12 winter storm; Hannibal freezing rain trip on January 9

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I covered winter westher in Southern Illinois on Thursday and Friday (January 11 and 12) Ina, Illinois back into the St. Louis area. On the 11th, I witnessed a rare atmospheric optics phenomenon developed over much of the area during the event. Light pillars are typically observed during extreme cold (near or below zero Fahrenheit) as tiny ice crystals hovering in the air near the surface reflect light from ground-level sources like streetlights. They appear very much like pillars seen during displays of aurora borealis, but their light source is terrestrial. What made this event unusual is that surface temperatures were in the upper teens to low 20s, and sleet was the precipitation type falling at the time. Sleet pellets are generally incapable of creating these type of optics themselves, so it is likely that the sleet was co-mingled with small ice crystals of another shape and size.

The pillars were visible over much of the St. Louis Metro East. This was the view at O'Fallon:

Light pillars in O'Fallon, IL

Light pillars in O'Fallon, IL

As I moved east on I-64 to stay with the falling precipitation, the pillars were visible over most towns in southern Illinois, most notably in Nashville:

Light pillars in Nashville, IL

Light pillars in Nashville, IL

January 7: Missouri freezing rain

I drove up to Hannibal to cover a freezing rain event along Highway 61 northwest of St. Louis. No photos or videos captured.

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