Weather Watch


Anyone who has been to Disneyland for its holiday celebration knows what happens at the end of the fireworks presentation … it snows. SoCal snow can be experienced without wearing a heavy winter coat and you won’t have to get out the snow shovels.

Coming from Iowa, the first time I was caught in a “fake snowstorm” was a little strange. It didn’t exactly look like real snow but there was something about seeing the light fluffy bubbles float from the rooftops of Disney’s Main Street that made it actually feel like a white Christmas. Then the bubbles would pop and the illusion was gone; however, for that brief moment it was magical.

Most know the mythical story of how the film industry came to Hollywood. The costs of production were growing in New York and working through the winter was difficult. In the early 1900s, director D.W. Griffith and his crew got on a train and traveled west. The story goes the director got off the train in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was cold and snowy so he got back on the train and continued to Los Angeles. The first movie studio was built in a real estate area called Hollywoodland, later shortened to Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Shooting in sunny LA was great but that didn’t mean movies stopped filming snowy scenes. In those first films many different effects were used for snow including cotton and foamite (material used in fire extinguishers) mixed with soap flakes, sugar and water.

“For miniatures we’ve used baking soda,” said Dennis Skotak, an Academy Award-winning visual effects artist whose films include “The Abyss” and “Aliens,” to mention only a few.

He said they also used special paper products as well as polypropylene which is a thermoplastic made from the combination of propylene monomers and microballoons – tiny glass bubbles.

“Microballoons looks like snow,” he said.

He said the tiny glass bubbles create a snowing effect as they float down.
Another item used for miniatures is polyester fiberfill, like in pillows, according to Pat McClung, visual effects artist best know for “Armageddon” and “True Lies.”

And for many films snowflakes are digitally added so actors stay warm on set while “snow” falls around them.

At Disneyland and other venues that have “snow” shoot out from machines, that is mostly tiny bubbles made of water and surfactants, a compound that reduces the surface tension of a liquid. It’s basically tiny bubbles that glitter and float.

Even though in movies and at events the temperatures don’t match the snowy scene there is something about the visual of snow, whether real or fake, that makes one feel cozy and in need of a hot chocolate.
For us, this week “cold” is not something that is imagined. There are two storm systems heading our way. The first is predicted to arrive Thursday night into Friday morning.

“It [will be] a little weaker [than originally expected] and it’s moving faster than we thought. We are trimming back the [expected] rainfall amounts from 1/2 inch to 1 inch,” said David Sweet, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “There is another system coming through Saturday night into Sunday morning, and that’s quite a bit drier with [expected rainfall] of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch.”

“There is a possibility it could start raining at [6 p.m. on Saturday] but it probably will hold off until later Saturday night,” he said.