For a few moments, this morning was magic. Huge snow flakes floated down through the icy branches as onlookers oohed.

Then it was gone. What happened was a "warm nose" of air dissipated just far enough then re-established itself. The "nose" is a common term among meteorologists for a layer of warmth high in the atmosphere that melts snow flakes somewhat as they fall through, creating ice and sleet while they descend. Forecasters had expected the air layer to cool overnight enough to drop snow, but it never really did - except just barely, for a few moments. Flakes falling through melted just enough to stick to each other, creating the giant flakes.

"It happens right on the (temperature) threshold," said meteorologist Jonathan Lamb, National Weather Service, Charleston.

"Oftentimes you'll see the big flakes at the very beginning of a snow event and right at the end."

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