The National Weather Service wants to warn you about snow squalls

Snow squalls cause white-out conditions.

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, Clearfield County, Pa.

FOX43’s Winter Weather Awareness Week continues…

According to the National Weather Service, snow squalls cause the most weather-related fatalities on roads in Pennsylvania.

Snow squalls are so dangerous because they happen in a flash. They surprise drivers because the weather will look nice–even sunny, and then, all of the sudden, snow appears and causes white-out conditions.

These heavy bursts of snow often don’t last long, only about 15 to 45 minutes, and they only cause an inch or two of snow, if that.

Yet, the sudden, blizzard-like conditions can lead to chain reaction, multi-vehicle crashes, which is why they’re so dangerous.

Snow squalls lead to collisions.

There have been dozens of car pileups on Interstate 80 and 81 just because of snow squalls in Pennsylvania.  In 2001, 100 vehicles were involved in a snow squall pileup on Interstate 80.  8 died and 45 were injured.

Passing lake-effect snow and strong cold fronts cause these sudden, blizzard-like conditions.

On Wednesday Meteorologists Bradon Long and Drew Anderson attended a winter weather conference organized by the National Weather Service to learn about the new snow squall warnings system.

The NWS and emergency management held a conference on winter weather.

At the meeting, the National Weather Service explained how they’ve not been able to issue Snow Squall Warnings in the past.

Even though snow squalls are very dangerous and a deadly threat to someone driving, the National Weather Service couldn’t issue warnings because snow squalls produce so little snow.

In order to issue a Winter Storm Advisory or Warning, the storm has to produce so much snow.

This much snow would have triggered a Winter Storm Advisory.

So, beginning this winter, our local National Weather Service out of State College will be one of seven National Weather Services in the country to have the power to issue Snow Squall Warnings.

Our computer weather models forecast snow squalls well and often well in advance, so Snow Squall Warnings will help get the word out early.

The National Weather Service’s main message is don’t drive if there is a Snow Squall Warning issued in your area or get off the road immediately if one is issued.

You can barely see anything in front of you in a snow squall, let alone the sides of the road, because of the white out conditions.  They can also cause flash freezing on roads, making them very icy.

Snow squalls produce sudden white-out conditions.

Emergency management coordinators at the winter weather workshop recommend that you never stop your car in a snow squall.  Cars behind you will not be able to see you’re stopped until they’re right about to run into you.

They also explained how many people die because they get out of their car in a snow squall after a collision.  A car will not be able to see you until it’s right about to hit you.  If you do get out of you vehicle, immediately get away from the road.

Snowy roads lead to this crash.

In addition, the new Snow Squall Warning, the National Weather Service is simplifying their other winter weather notifications:

  • A Winter Weather Advisory means you’re going to get a minor snow or ice storm.
  • A Winter Storm Watch means conditions are right for you to get a big snow or ice storm soon.
  • A Winter Storm Warning means you’re going to get a big snow or ice storm.

Even though an advisory means you’re going to get a minor snow or ice storm, these minor snow and ice storms are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than big storm storms.

Big storms get a lot of talk and press, whereas advisories do not.  Advisories need to be taken just as seriously as a warning.

FOX43 is the only local television station at the winter weather conference.