National Weather Service implements new type of snow warning in Michigan

Detroit was one of first cities to test warning system


DETROIT – The National Weather Service has implemented a new type of snow warning in Michigan.  

In addition to the usual winter storm watches and warnings, and winter weather advisories, the NWS now will also issue highly localized, polygon-based Snow Squall Warnings.

Last winter, the Detroit NWS office was one of the first to test the system.

NWS defines a snow squall as an intense, but limited duration, period of moderate to heavy snowfall, accompanied by strong, gusty surface winds and possibly lightning (generally moderate to heavy snow showers). Snow accumulation may be significant.

"Annual highway fatalities from these events can exceed fatalities due to tornadoes in many years," the NWS said.

The new snow warning will be implemented in seven U.S. areas, including State College, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Binghamton, New York; Burlington, Vermont; Detroit; Pittsburgh and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Some of the above-mentioned locations near the Great Lakes are prone to lake-effect snow squalls.

If snow squall warning is issued for your area, the NWS has this advice:

  • Consider avoiding or delaying travel until the snow squall passes your location.
  • If you must travel, use extra caution and allow extra time.
  • Rapid changes in visibility and slick road conditions may lead to accidents.

Snowstorm vs. snow squall: What’s the difference?

Incoming major snowstorms are predicted days ahead giving emergency managers time to preposition resources and urge the public to prepare and take shelter.

But, snow squalls are different: They move in and move on or fizzle out quickly, and typically last less than an hour. The sudden white-out conditions combined with falling temperatures produces icy roads in just a few minutes. Squalls can occur where there is no large-scale winter storm in progress and might only produce minor accumulations.

If a snow squall warning is issued for your area, your best bet is to avoid or delay motor travel until the squall passes through your location. There truly is no safe place on the highway during a snow squall, but if you are already in transit and cannot exit the road in time, drive very slowly and allow plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you.

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