The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 28, 2014

Winter wonder

Weather just right for snow rollers


The Associated Press and Herald staff

MERCER COUNTY — High winds and snow in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio combined Monday to create hundreds of examples of natural sculptures known as snow rollers.

When outdoorsman Frank Dolby of Farrell woke up shortly after 7:30 a.m. Monday to fetch his newspaper, he saw scores of snow rollers in his yard.

“I was flabbergasted,’’ Dolby said. “I’m 68 years old and I’ve been outdoors forever, and never, ever seen anything like it before.’’

The round, snowball-like rollers ranged from 2 to 3 inches high up to 8 inches high, he said.

“It’s amazing how they look,’’ Dolby said.

According to the National Weather Service, a snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally when chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind.

The shapes are often hollow, and the conditions need to be precisely right for them to form, according to the weather service. For example, wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not so strong they’re blown too fast.

Weather service records from various states note that snow rollers can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a 30-gallon drum, but typically average 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Farther east in Mercer County, 85-year-old Shirley Clark of Stoneboro, was matter of fact. “I’ve never seen these before,” she said.