Nuclear snow? Beaver County nuke plant responsible for Tuesday's isolated snow storm

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PITTSBURGH —

It wasn‘t nuclear snow, but the snow that fell on parts of the Allegheny and Beaver counties Tuesday night did originate from the cooling towers at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport.

A radar image from the National Weather Service in Moon showing a swath of snow extending eastward from the power plant was making the rounds of social media sites Wednesday.

The cooling towers emit warm, moist air. Tuesday night, it was being released into very cold and dry air, National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said.

“Essentially it‘s a micro-scale of what a lake effect snow event is -- warm, moist air moving over a cool surface cooling the air and causing it to lose the moisture in the clouds. In this case it came down as snow,” Hendricks said.

The effect began between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday and continued through around midnight.

The area of snow produced was, at its widest, about two miles wide, according to the National Weather Service. Based on radar, it extended east about 30 miles from the power plant over southeast Beaver County and northern Allegheny County.

Within the affected area, there were reports of an inch or two of snow falling. It quickly covered the roads and caused major traffic delays.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.