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Snow Squall Safety

December 15, 2020 01:00 PM
By: Jeff Jumper, PEMA, State Meteorologist

Snow Squall Safety

Snow squalls: a driver’s worst nightmare.

Imagine driving across a Pennsylvania interstate on a cold, windy, but sunny winter’s day. In a matter of seconds, you drive into a wall of white, and then you abruptly stop as you slide into a pile of other cars and trucks.

It’s a scary thought, but it’s a real threat to motorists during the winter.

Why are Snow Squalls Dangerous?

Snow squalls, similar to summertime thunderstorms, are typically small storms that pack a big punch. Instead of rain and lighting, squalls often bring blinding snowfall and cause roadways to quickly freeze. Only a few hundred feet is the difference between sunshine and a whiteout. The margin for error between life and death to an unprepared motorist is even smaller.

Snow Squall Preparation

What do you do to prepare for squalls?

Just remember to P.A.R.K. it!

PREPARE: If you have travel planned, especially on high-speed roadways, always be conscious of the upcoming weather forecast. From the National Weather Service to TV and radio sources, we typically know a few hours to a few days in advance of squalls in the forecast. Adjust your travel route or timing based on the forecast. The best possible solution is to not be on the roadway when squalls arrive.

ALERTS:  If you must travel, have a few methods to receive the snow squall warning. These are issued by the National Weather Service just like tornado warnings and will use the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on your smartphones to notify you. You can sign up for alerts on apps as well.

RESPOND:  Take immediate action to the alert. If you’re in the squall, it’s too late. Get off at the nearest exit and park in a lot if you can. Avoid pulling over on the side of a highway as other cars may collide with you if the squall passes.

KEEP CALM:  If a squall catches you off guard, calmly do the following:

  • Reduce speed
  • Turn on headlights
  • DO NOT slam on your brakes
  • If you are involved in an accident or must stop, stay in your vehicle to avoid being struck, as long as it’s the safest option

Snow squalls only happen a few times a winter on average, and only last 10-30 minutes in a given spot, but the impact could be lasting. Be alert, be aware, and be safe!

Learn More

For more information about snow squall and winter weather safety, visit these websites:


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