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Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Anyone looking out the window last week noticed the beautiful, wintry frost hanging from the trees for several days. And anyone who drove anywhere noticed the thick fog that hung in the air day after day.

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The fog may have been a motorist's nightmare, but the thick hoarfrost was a photographer's dream.

"We have hoarfrost like that every winter," said meteorologist John Wheeler. "But it got really heavy this time, and it was because for two or three days, there was absolutely no wind."

So it's not so much that the hoarfrost was a rarity, but because the air was so still for several days it allowed the sparkly stuff to accumulate, causing an impressive build-up on tree branches and shrubbery.

"That frost is really fragile and it falls off trees and branches and everything with just the slightest wind," Wheeler explained. "We were absolutely calm Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

While it's a pretty sight, there's a scientific reason behind the phenomenon.

"When you have an atmosphere that is completely saturated, when you get that fog, it's actually made up of tiny droplets of water, which are suspended in that air," Wheeler said. "Those droplets of water, which we call super-cooled, are actually below freezing. They are liquid, but they have a temperature below 32 (degrees)."

"This happens because they are tiny, individual water droplets and they just haven't coalesced into raindrops. They're suspended tiny water droplets.

"What happens then, once you get that thicker fog, when it's below freezing, that moisture starts to accumulate (on the surface) and it grows crystals."

Wheeler said it's the same as when frost forms on sidewalks and streets, this is just a different location. The frost goes to the ground in those situations, he said, because the air isn't as saturated, and the ground is colder, causing the frost to form.

He said it's maybe a little unusual to have the frost last as long as it did last week, but that's mainly because of the fact that there was no wind, not because of the frost itself.

"It's not really that unusual except in the way it stayed so calm for so long. So not only is it unusual in that sense that it lasted three days -- it got thicker, the frost on the surfaces, on the trees, on everything. If you inspected it close, some of that stuff was well over a quarter inch long, those crystals. It's just because it had three days to grow."

It was maybe the prettiest three days of the unusual winter weather so far this year.

Brian Basham, staff photographer at DL Newspapers, captured these images.

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