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Victorian Beach Turns White With 'Snow' In Autumn Cold Snap

Snow or hail? Ah, well here's the thing...

The town of Cape Paterson in the East Gippsland region of Victoria turned white today as a cold front sweeps over south-eastern Australia.

"It lasted about 10 minutes and the thunder was incredible," local property owner Sue Breeden told 10 daily.

"People were throwing hail into the air like snow. The beach looked like Mt Buller by the sea!"

Anyone for hail boarding? Image: Inverloch Community Voice Facebook page.

Now as it happens, it is indeed snowing in the Victorian ski resort of Mt Buller today. But was this snow or hail down at sea level?

It was hail. But it was actually the nearest thing to snow, and not just because it looked a lot like it.

Image: Inverloch Community Voice Facebook page.

The hail that coated Cape Paterson today is officially called "graupel", but is more commonly called "small hail" in Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecasts.

It's formed when it's not cold enough to snow at ground level, but it is cold enough for snow to be falling a few hundred metres above the ground.

Nice shorts, mate. Image: Inverloch Community Voice Facebook page.

Small hail falls quite often in autumn, spring and winter in low-lying parts of Victoria and South Australia, when super-cooled water droplets freeze on snowflakes.

Image: Inverloch Community Voice Facebook page.

This is a totally different form of hail to the type people in Sydney and other parts of Australia are more accustomed to.

Most Aussies know about hail formed in updrafts in thunderstorms, where warm raindrops are carried far up into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere where they freeze into ice. They then fall as hail.

Sometimes, the updrafts and falling process repeats several times, which is why large hail stones get those distinctive onion-style rings.

Sweeeeet. Image: Inverloch Community Voice Facebook page.

But as mentioned, small hail is different. It coats the ground looking more like sugar, and the "stones" are really just pebbles less than half a centimetre in diameter.

Which is good news for Cape Paterson residents today, as there have been no reports of damage yet. There have, however, been some blocked drains and reports of minor flooding.

READ MORE: Freezing Winds, Autumn Snow As Temps Plummet Across Australia

This Friday's cold snap brings to an end a record run of warm temperatures across Australia so far this year.

Indeed, the whole of Australia recorded its warmest first four months on record, the BoM confirmed in a statement.

Contact the author asharwood@networkten.com.au