But there are phenomena meteorologists don’t entirely understand that can leave thin ribbons of snow cover that are only a few miles wide while stretching across many counties.
Such a winter disturbance dusted parts of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas with a band of snow on January 12, 2013.
As the system crossed the Arkansas River near Newkirk, Oklahoma, it dropped a pint-sized “mesoscale snow band” that appeared to be only about 5 miles across at its widest point.
The aftermath of the mini snowstorm was captured three days later by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite. It passed overhead at about 10:30 a.m. local time on January 15.
“Although there is debate as to what exactly causes them, these mesoscale snow bands are common in the comma head-shaped region of winter storms and can significantly add to local snow accumulations,” explained Steve Nesbitt, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois.
The stripe of snow wasn’t the only one that was painted across the Great Plains that night.
To the west, a lighter strip of snow cut through an area east Wichita. A storm a little to the east left a much wider band.
All of the bands were created by short-lived but intense disturbances that significantly reduced visibility while lasting only about 20 minutes at any given location.
Accumulations were generally less than an inch. Temperatures in the teens after the snow fell helped freeze the ground and allow the snowy stripes to linger in some places. This was even with afternoon high temperatures warming to about 37 degrees on January 14.
Full story and image: NASA