This week the National Weather Service is holding Snow Squall Awareness week. Snow squalls are the biggest threat to motorists during the winter months.
We all see the shares of snow accumulation maps, but these big snow events are not the deadliest snowfalls here in Central PA. it is during the pileups on the interstates during snow squalls.
John Bangoff, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, told us, “The thing with snow squalls themselves is that they are kind of like the equivalent of thunderstorms, it can be a perfectly sunny day, where there are puffy cumulus clouds around and you might not even realize what you are driving into when you do. The real danger with them is what we call flash freeze, where the road temperatures could be 30, 40, 50 degrees, but as the snow begins to fall, and the tires are rolling over, it freeze and turns into a sheet of ice and before you know it, now you can’t see more than a quarter mile ahead of you and you try to slam on your breaks and you can’t and you get these big piles ups that occur.”
To alert you that a snow squall is happening, or about to happen, you can find the information while you travel on the PennDOT digital message signs along the road, or even right on your phone.
John explained to us when these will be pushed out to your phone. He said, “When we issue a Snow Squall Warning we generally issue it at certain daytime hours. From 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM and what’s issued it triggers a wireless emergency alert, similar to a Tornado Warning and if you are in that polygon, you are going to be alerted to the warning issued. Now, if you are not on the road its not going to be particularly relative to you, you are safe if you are inside your house.”
The National Weather Service is using the slogan of, “There is no safe place on the highway during a snow squall,” so what should you do if you are traveling?
Mr. Bangoff told us this, “The reason we say that is because if you are on the road in a snow squall, even if you pull off on the side of the road, you still are not necessarily safe, because if a pile up happens nobody can really stop, with tractor trailers coming you could still get hit, the best possible thing you can do is if you are able to, exit the highway immediately and wait for the snow squall to pass before getting on so you don’t get caught in one of these big pile ups and potentially risk your life.”
Snow squalls usually only last between fifteen and thirty minutes at most, and then you can safely travel. Make sure if you get a Snow Squall Warning alert, to seek safety off the highway as soon as possible and wait out the whiteout conditions.
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Make sure to tune into WTAJ News at 7:30 PM on Wednesday November 17, 2021 for the winter outlook ahead and how to prepare for the upcoming winter season.