Close this search box.
True Self Care Logo

What is a Snow Squall and Why Are They So Dangerous?

Snow squalls are one of the most hazardous winter weather phenomena that can catch drivers off guard and cause deadly accidents. In this blog post, we will explain what snow squalls are, how they differ from snowstorms, how to stay safe if you encounter one, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What are snow squalls?

A snow squall is an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibility and is often accompanied by gusty winds. They may be characterized by one main squall or multiple squalls.

Snow squalls can happen at a moment’s notice and pose extreme danger to motorists who are unfortunate enough to drive into this sudden blast of wind-driven snow. Imagine needing your sunglasses one minute, but then you drive into a white wall of snow the next and can barely see the car in front of you. That’s what it’s like to be caught in a snow squall on a highway.

Think of a snow squall like a miniature blizzard with gusty winds that typically lasts less than an hour. Very high snowfall rates, on the order of 2 inches in 30 minutes, are not uncommon.

What is the difference between a snow squall and a snow storm?

A snow storm is a prolonged period of snowfall that usually covers a large area and lasts for several hours or days. A snow storm may have varying intensity and wind speed, but generally does not cause sudden changes in visibility or road conditions.

A snow squall, on the other hand, is a localized and short-lived event that can occur within a snow storm or even under clear skies. A snow squall can create whiteout conditions in a matter of seconds and make roads slippery and treacherous. A snow squall can also produce strong wind gusts that can blow snow around and create drifting or blowing snow.

How to stay safe during a snow squall?

The best way to avoid the dangers of a snow squall is to stay informed and avoid driving when they are possible or expected. You can check the latest weather forecasts and alerts from the National Weather Service or your local media outlets. You can also sign up for wireless emergency alerts on your phone or download weather apps that can notify you of snow squall warnings.

If you are already on the road and encounter a snow squall, here are some tips to follow:

  • Slow down and turn on your headlights and hazard lights. This will help you see better and make you more visible to other drivers.
  • Do not slam on the brakes or make sudden turns. This can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and skid or slide off the road.
  • Do not stop or pull over on the shoulder. There is no safe place on a highway during a snow squall, as other vehicles can still hit you if they lose control and slide off the road.
  • If possible, exit the highway and find a safe place to wait until the snow squall passes. Look for a parking lot, a gas station, a rest area, or any other place where you can park your vehicle away from traffic.
  • Stay in your vehicle and keep your seat belt on. Do not get out of your car unless it is absolutely necessary, as you may be hit by another vehicle or exposed to the cold and wind.
  • If you are involved in an accident or need help, call 911 and wait for assistance. Do not try to walk or drive away from the scene, as you may get lost or injured in the snow squall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do snow squalls form?

A: Snow squalls are usually associated with cold fronts or lake-effect snow bands that move rapidly across the landscape. They are triggered by strong upward motions in the atmosphere that create clouds and precipitation. The cold air behind the front or over the lake enhances the instability and intensity of the snow squalls.

Q: How can I tell if a snow squall is coming?

A: Snow squalls can be hard to predict and detect, as they can develop quickly and vary in size and shape. However, some signs that a snow squall may be approaching are:

  • A sudden drop in temperature or increase in wind speed
  • A darkening of the sky or a wall of snow on the horizon
  • A snow squall warning issued by the National Weather Service or your local authorities

Q: What is a snow squall warning?

A: A snow squall warning is a type of alert that the National Weather Service issues when a snow squall is imminent or occurring and poses a significant threat to life and property. A snow squall warning means that you should avoid or delay travel until the snow squall passes, as it can cause dangerous driving conditions and reduced visibility. A snow squall warning is typically issued for a specific area and lasts for less than an hour.

Q: How common are snow squalls?

A: Snow squalls are more common in regions that experience cold and snowy winters, such as the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Great Lakes. They are especially frequent in areas that are prone to lake-effect snow, such as the leeward shores of the Great Lakes. Snow squalls can occur anytime from late fall to early spring, but are most likely in the months of December, January, and February.

In This Post:

Editor`s Pick:
Stay In Touch

Never miss an important update. Be the first to receive our exclusive beauty tips straight into your inbox.