At the start of last week, Portage County residents noticed fields and yards littered with cylindrical lumps of snow -- some of them doughnut-shaped and hollow in the center.
It's a rare weather phenomenon most local residents have never seen before. Known as snow rollers -- they're also called snow logs and snow pipes -- they are formed by very strong winds, ground covered with a layer of ice and topped by wet, loose snow, and a slope to allow the wind to start rolling and accumulating snow.
"They're pretty rare. I've known of them, but I don't recall seeing them," said Thomas Schmidlin, professor of geography at Kent State University.
He said conditions Jan. 26 "were just perfect." After powdery snow fell Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, temperatures rose to near 40 degrees, melting the top layer of powdery snow ahead of an incoming arctic front.
"A strong southwest wind flipped up chunks of that frozen snow and sometimes those chunks roll along," Schmidlin said. "As long as the wind blows, it gets bigger until its too big for the wind to push."
Schmidlin said last week's snow roller phenomenon was wide spread. "I'm getting reports all over -- from western Pennsylvania to Zanesville," he said.
The snow rolls vary in size from about snowball size to a foot across. One man in Ravenna reported a snow roll "as big as a car tire." In some fields it was possible to see the tracks left as the snow rollers were driven by the wind.
Schmidlin said this winter has been like a weather classroom. "We're learning a lot this winter -- about snow rollers and frost quakes and polar vortex," he said.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154
Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier