Sleet vs. Freezing Rain: 4 Key Differences and How to Stay Safe in Each

Written by Amanda Martinotti
Published: December 6, 2023
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The season of giving is almost at our doorstep. Mother Nature loves to donate chilly, harsh, icy weather to us. In this article, you’ll discover the key differences between two types of precipitation, sleet and freezing rain, while learning how to stay safe in each.

SleetFreezing Rain
Can sting your face, or body if exposed.Freezes whatever it touches.
Makes a sound as it makes contact with the ground.Turns everything into a giant ice skating rink.
Bounces off Sidewalks.Can take down power lines due to excessive weight.
Looks like mini snowballs.Looks like normal rain.
A table of the 4 key differences between sleet vs. freezing rain.

Sleet vs. Freezing Rain: What Is Sleet? 

Sleet is the remains that come from a snowflake in which it does not completely thaw out as it travels through a channel of warm oxygen. After they filter through a pocket of icy air, the snowflake evolves into what you see on the ground in the form of sleet. 

Oftentimes, sleet looks like tiny balls of snow. Moreover, these tiny snow-like clumps will stick to your mittens, hats, and pants. Sleet can also create far worse damage than just hanging to freshly styled hair or winter clothes. For example, sleet can create accidents and falls. 

sleet vs freezing rain

Sleet appears to resemble tiny snowballs.

©Ayman Haykal/

Precautions to Take With Sleet at Home

Whether you’re at home watching the wintry mix from your bay window or watching a Christmas romance movie with your partner, here are essential tips to help you stay safe when it is sleeting.

Don’t Let Your Pets Play Outside

Sleet can not only cause slips in humans, but it can also create havoc for animals. Limit exposure to wintry conditions only if they need to go to the bathroom. This is also a good time to skip on taking walks outdoors.

Keep Your Utility Supplier’s Numbers Handy

Sleet does not often cause a red flag for concern. However, it can formulate into ice. Therefore, if you are expecting sleet to last longer than a day, you will want to keep your utility numbers handy in case of a power outage.

Stock Up Your Pantry 

It is possible to lose power during a wintry mix where sleet is involved. This is why it is essential to make sure that your house has enough non-perishable foods should an emergency occur.

Dress Warmly

If you need to shovel or go outside for any reason, it is recommended to wear clothes that repel against water. Additionally, you should wear many layers to prevent being exposed to frostbite. It is also strongly suggested to wear winter-resistant jackets to prevent the risk of hypothermia or illness.

Ditch the Candles

Candlelight during the storm may sound romantic and cozy. But, it can pose a fire hazard risk. It is best to ditch the candles and battery-operated lighting instead.

Charge Your Back Up Battery Supplies

Before the storm, you may wish to keep your battery-operated chargers at full capacity in case of emergencies. Plus, keeping your iPads or tablets charged can help you keep little ones entertained should they become startled.

Keep Blankets Handy

If the weather becomes too chilly, you will need blankets to keep you and your family warm. It is best to unpack any blankets in storage to be prepared.

Use a Battery-Operated Radio 

You may not have the power to watch local weather stations. What’s more is that using a battery-operated radio will keep you in the loop in case of evacuations or other weather emergencies.

sleet vs freezing rain

Using a battery-operated radio will keep you in the loop in case of evacuations, or other weather emergencies.

©Sharon Feragotti/

How to Stay Safe in Your Car When It Is Sleeting

If you’re traveling for a work holiday party, to pick up your dog from the groomers, or you need to pick your children up from class, there are precautions that you should take while traveling in sleet. Here are a few of them.

Plan Ahead

If possible, try to rearrange appointments that are not life-threatening. This includes dental appointments, doctor exams, and veterinary checkups. If your vehicle isn’t able to tolerate the wintry mix, it could put you at risk of harming yourself or someone on the road. Furthermore, try to plan using winter weather-equipped vehicles instead of your cars to prevent an accident.

Make Sure Your Vehicles Are Prepared

Having a winter-weather automobile is not enough to trump harsh conditions. Consequently, you should make sure you have an emergency car kit, check your antifreeze, and make sure you have enough gas. A lack of antifreeze or gas can put your car at risk of stalling or creating unnecessary accidents.

Keep Contact Before, and While Traveling

Let someone close to you know your travel route, destination, and the time frame you will be arriving. Keeping someone informed can help to get you help in case your car should crash, or flip. 

Don’t Tred Bridges or Passageways

Bridges and passageways can become a driving hazard quickly. Due to being composed of metal, or wood, sleet can stick and harden.

Sleet vs. Freezing Rain: What Is Freezing Rain?

Similarly, freezing rain descends into warm air. However, freezing rain turns into ice before it touches the ground. This is the reason that most meteorologists are more concerned with freezing rain in comparison to sleet. 

sleet vs freezing rain

Freezing rain turns into ice before it touches the ground


Precautions to Take for Freezing Rain at Home

Many precautions used for sleet can be used for freezing rain. Yet, there are essential tips that are different from sleet that you must use as well. Here are some of them below.

Use a Battery Radio

Similar to sleet, using a battery-operated radio can help you keep up to date with weather alerts when the power is out.

Keep Outside Faucets Covered

Water can freeze simultaneously due to the cold temperatures that come with freezing rain. So, it is important to keep them covered to prevent freezing.

Operate Your Generator Outside

NEVER operate a generator inside your home. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Keep Your Fireplaces Clean

Be sure that any fireplace, heater, or stove is cleaned and prepped to keep the ventilation clear. This will prevent the risk of a fire breaking out in your home.

Check on Family and Friends

If you have family or friends with medical issues, it is a vital time to check in and make sure they are doing okay. If you have a friend who you know is living alone and has medical conditions, you may want to hunker down with them before the storm begins. 

Keep Pets Indoors

Freezing rain isn’t a danger to only humans. It can create havoc for pets as well. Older pets run the risk of breaking their legs if they have a fall. Senile pets can become disorientated from the impact of the freezing rain. Younger pets can also freeze to death if they are left out for too long. 

Wear Non-Slip Boots

If you have to walk to your mailbox or go outside for any reason, make sure that you have the right boots. Look for a pair of boots that have non-slip grips on them, which will permit you to walk, shovel, or move in the freezing rain.

Take Baby Steps

With your knees slightly bent, take small steps until you reach your destination. Do not attempt to speed walk or run, which can cause injury should you lose your balance.

sleet vs freezing rain

Freezing rain can pose a threat to humans, and animals as well.

©Walter Coate/

Driving Tips for Freezing Rain

Consequently, driving in the freezing rain is not advised. However, if you must travel, below are some tips to help you navigate freezing rain:

  • Reduce speeds. 
  • Gradually increase speeds on the highway rather than all at once.
  • Make sure to switch your tires before any freezing rain comes.
  • Make sure that you have a bag packed with first aid kits, non-perishable food, and tools in case you end up stranded. You may also want to pack a blanket in case you are stuck somewhere on the ice for a while.
  • Bring your car to a mechanic to make sure that your car and heater are in working condition.
sleet vs freezing rain

Make sure that you have a bag packed with first aid kits, non-perishable food, and tools in case you end up stranded.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, sleet vs. freezing rain are both dangerous. However, it is how they are made that separates them from each other.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © justoomm/

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