Rogue snowstorm that pounded Wisconsin town caused by steam from factories, NWS believes

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Steam from nearby factories may to to blame for a rogue snowstorm that pummeled a Wisconsin town with unexpected snow. 

It happened Dec. 4 near the western Wisconsin community of Colfax, which received up to six inches of snow when nobody outside of the area picked up any snow. 

Evidence of the phenomenon was picked up on radar, and the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service believes the snow was enhanced by steam from nearby factories, creating a "snow plume" that was 15 miles long and 2-3 miles wide, and lasting for at least nine hours. 

Caleb Gruntzke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, explained to WQOW how it happened. 

"The factories are releasing warm moist air into the atmosphere and it’s cooling down because that atmospheric air is cold," he said. "So, the warm moist air from the factory can’t hold that moisture anymore as it’s cooling down. So, it begins to precipitate within the right temperatures to precipitate as snow."

A plow driver in Colfax told the Eau Claire TV station that 6-7 inches fell in a mile-wide swath and everywhere outside that area picked up a trace or nothing at all. 

Colfax is located northwest of Eau Claire, about 70 miles east of St. Paul. 

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