National Weather Service rolls out new snow squall warning
The National Weather Service is always working to improve watches, warnings and advisories in order to keep the public safe and aware when it comes to severe weather. Severe thunderstorm, winter and blizzard warnings are a few of the systems used, but sometimes conditions fall outside the established criteria. That’s where a new alert comes into play.
The National Weather Service rolled out a new snow squall warning system. A snow squall is an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall often accompanied by gusty winds. These can simulate blizzard like conditions. Conditions associated with a squall are usually low visibility and significant icing on the highways.
Susan Sanders, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Rapid City says,
“It could also be when a cold front is coming and you have some snow showers with that and drastically colder temperatures behind the front, and that’s what could cause the freezing on the highway.”
Sunday’s squall event was a perfect example of the importance of having squall warnings. The NWS already issues winter storm warnings, watches and advisories, but these events are usually prolonged and remain for several days. A squall while having characteristics similar to winter storm warnings and blizzards, are much shorter, and may only last for minutes, and generally affect small pockets of a region. In that time, whiteout conditions are possible, and highway jams and accidents are not unlikely.
“This isn’t a long-term blizzard, it’s not going to be piling up 6 8 inches of snow or lasting for a day or two, but it’s just going to blow through very quickly but be careful when you’re driving during those conditions.”
This new system will be issued for smaller areas and generally for highways where impacts will be felt the most. The warning will not be as stringent as a severe thunderstorm warning, and will be issued for reduced visibility, surface temperatures below freezing, gusty winds, and will only be issued for a 1-3 hour period.