What is freezing rain, and how does it form?

Last Updated on September 13, 2022 by Mattias

A common question we get is, “What is freezing rain?”

And we get that it might be confusing to find the correct answers out there. So we decided to do a guide for you. 

Is freezing rain dangerous, and should you drive in it? 

In this post, you’ll get all the answers. So you can understand what it is. Let’s dive in! 

What is freezing rain? 

Freezing rain happens when snowflakes fall into a warmer layer of air and melt. It freezes almost instantly when it strikes a cold surface. Freezing rain is a rare type of liquid rain. 

How does freezing rain form? 

For freezing rain to form, it must be a profound layer of air above freezing over a shallow layer below freezing. 

  1. It snows 
  2. Snow enters a deep warm layer in the air
  3. Snow melts completely 
  4. Enters a shallow cold layer 
  5. The raindrops become supercooled in cold air and freeze on contact. Causing Freezing rain. 

What does freezing rain look like? 

Freezing rain looks like snow and a little bit like hail and sleet. 

What is the difference between sleet and freezing rain? 

Both of these freezing weather classes are dangerous for travelers. 

Sleet happens when snowflakes melt when they fall through a layer of warm air. Sleet is just frozen raindrops. 

Depending on the duration and intensity, sleet can come down on the ground like snow. 

The difference between sleet and freezing rain depends on the layer of freezing air and the thickness. 

Why are Freezing Rain and Sleet Dangerous?

The ice can cause extremely hazardous road conditions, like slick spots, which cause drivers to lose control of their cars. 

The weight from the frozen precipitation can snap tree limbs, break telephone and power lines, and damage unstable structures. 

Which makes freezing rain and sleet very dangerous weather conditions in certain cases. 

But freezing rain forms like a sheet of ice while sleet forms like small ice pellets that often just bounce off the ground. This makes freezing rain far more dangerous than sleet. 

It is very dangerous to drive when there is freezing rain and if you must drive. Make sure to drive slowly. 

9 Tips when Driving in Freezing Rain 

The best thing would be to keep your car off the road. But if you’re going to drive when there’s freezing rain, then follow these tips:

1. Slow down – Drive slowly so you can break if needed. 

2. Don’t use cruise control – Keep your foot on the gas at all times. This gives you more control over your vehicle. 

3. Keep a good distance between you and other vehicles – So you can break if needed.

4. Avoid sudden acceleration – This can cause your vehicle to skid, and you might lose control of it.  

5. If possible: Avoid breaking your vehicle – This can also cause your vehicle to skid. 

6. Plan your drive if you can – make sure you aren’t in a rush for your destination, and if you are, don’t drive fast. You’ll only risk yourself and other drivers. 

7. Watch out for snowplows – All the trucks will be sanding/salting the roads. Avoid passing them since it’s safer to stay behind.

8. Use your wipers and fluid – Freezing rain can build up on your windshield, which makes your vision even worse in an already bad situation. Use your wipers and fluid to keep your vision clear. 

9. Use your winter tires – Good tires are essential when driving in freezing rain. 

Freezing Rain Summary  

I hope you enjoyed this post about answering the question about what freezing rain is. 

As you discovered, freezing rain can be a very dangerous weather condition. Follow our guidelines when driving your car. 

Good luck, and stay safe!