GREAT FALLS — Understanding weather terminology is vital as the winter driving season commences. Snow squalls bring extreme danger to the road, featuring intense bursts of snow and strong winds, reducing visibility to nearly zero at times. Snow squalls typically last less than an hour.
The National Weather Service issues Snow Squall Warnings, similar to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, to alert drivers of an impending squall.
Rob Hart, the warnings coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Great Falls, explains: "If you receive a snow squall warning and you're not on a highway, we recommend you stay where you're at and don't venture out until the bust of snow is over. However, if you receive a warning and you are traveling, it is recommended you slow down and turn on your caution and hazard lights and avoid tailgating or really trailing behind anyone in front of you as visibility is going to go from really good visibility to very little visibility at all."
The National Weather Service also recommends that you do not pull to the side of the highway or roadway during a squall as whiteout conditions will be likely. This provides great danger to you and other drivers as they could easily slip and crash into your vehicle or cause a pileup.
According to Rob Hart, all drivers need to be taking precaution during a snow squall warning, "Even if you have a really big, powerful truck, four wheel drive, all wheel drive, that's not going to make a big difference in these snow squalls. Even semis and transportation trucks all are impacted by these squalls."
The National Weather Service, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation, began issuing snow squall alerts in 2018. The goal was to alert travelers of rapidly changing driving conditions, as a result of snow. If the snow squall warning is severe enough of a warning, a wireless emergency alert will be received by any smartphone.
For more winter driving tips, you can head over to the NWS website.