A snow squall is a brief, strong burst of heavy snowfall that causes a rapid loss in visibility and is frequently accompanied by powerful winds. If you are driving and receive a WEA for a Snow Squall Warning, you should immediately prepare for hazardous travel circumstances. The warning indicates that a significant amount of snow is expected to fall within an hour or two from the time the alert is issued.
Winter storm warnings and advisories are issues by the National Weather Service when 10 inches or more of snow falls in 24 hours or more of snow accumulation. Blizzard conditions occur when winds exceed 45 miles per hour with gusts above 70 miles per hour. Winter storms and blizzards can cause widespread road closures and accidents because of whiteout conditions as well as water-related problems from ice jams and overflow on rivers and lakes.
Snow squalls are local intense showers or bursts of snow occurring over a small area that cannot be seen from the airplane when flying at high altitude. They usually last only a few minutes but can bring up to 6 inches of snow per minute. Because they occur near the ground, people can be directly exposed to their effects. Windstorms with similar characteristics but over a larger area are called nor'easters.
The term "snow squall" was first used by pilots to describe short periods of heavy snowfall that could happen along a cold front.
Definition. They can be distinguished by a single large squall or by a series of smaller squalls. Winter storms that produce winter squalls are called blizzards when they cover the ground with snow and sleet and ice storms when they cause only lakeshore damage.
Winter squalls are common in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States, especially during the winter months. These gusty, snow-filled clouds develop when an area of low pressure spins around rapidly while moving across a region at high altitude. The cloud becomes distorted into a spiral shape as it descends toward the surface. When it reaches the edge of its range, the storm dissipates, but the remaining low pressure system continues on its path over another region.
As the name suggests, winter squalls usually occur during the coldest part of the year. However not all winter storms produce squalls. For example, a lake-effect snow band may form over an icy lake when a cold front moves through, even if it's not particularly cold outside. This band can trigger several hours of heavy snowfall that ends when the center of the storm passes by.
Winter squalls can bring heavy snow, strong winds, and sudden temperature drops.
Snow squalls are one of the most dangerous winter weather conditions because they can cause very sudden changes in visibility, leading to the rapid onset of whiteout conditions, according to Carter, who adds that a snow squall, when combined with the strong winds, can cause road conditions to change from clear and dry to suddenly covered in ice.
If you're involved in an accident during a snow squall, stay where you are until conditions allow you to leave. Don't try to drive through snow or slush because this could cause your car to spin out of control due to unknown road conditions.
Stay safe this winter and know what causes each type of storm so you can be prepared if it starts to snow!
Snow squalls have limited impacts and continue for only a few minutes—about 30 to 60 minutes. A snowstorm, on the other hand, might linger for hours or even days. Although snow squalls normally accumulate an inch or less of snow, they produce a disproportionate number of fatal automobile accidents. Snowstorms usually cause more damage and kill more people.
A wind-driven snowfall that obscures views, interrupts traffic, and closes schools is called a "snowstorm". If you don't have time to clear your driveway of ice or leave your car in the road because of whiteout conditions, you have experienced a snowstorm. Even if the snowfall is only in clouds and no accumulation occurs, it can still be very dangerous if you are driving in areas where whiteout conditions may occur. Be aware of changing weather conditions and plan ahead.
Storms are large scale systems that bring widespread heavy rain, strong winds, and snow across large regions. They often develop over warm oceans or large lakes. The air over these bodies of water becomes cooler than the surrounding air, which causes it to collapse, creating low pressure areas that are prone to forming storms.
Wind plays an important role in storms by pushing around large amounts of moisture in the atmosphere. As the air gets colder, it can no longer hold as much water vapor so there is less precipitation overall.
Accompanied by Snow Squall Warnings The NWS issues snow squall warnings for snow squalls that provide the greatest risk of abruptly altering visibility. These changes can be from a few hundred feet to all the way down to half a mile or less.
The biggest risk of snow squalls is when they drop large amounts of snow quickly on top of already-frozen ground. This can cause ice bridges to form over streams, ponds, and other bodies of water if the temperature is below 32 degrees F. When this happens, it can lead to death if you are caught out in it without knowing it.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to evacuate the area or if you are caught in freezing rain with no shelter available, call 911 immediately. Officials will tell you where to go and what life-threatening actions to take during a snow squall.