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WEATHER LAB | What is a snow squall?

These short bursts of snow and wind are notorious for causing accidents during the winter.

DES MOINES, Iowa — We are no stranger to snow here in Iowa, but even the most experienced winter drivers can be caught off guard by something we call snow squalls

Unlike typical snow, snow squalls have a sudden onset, going from no snow to heavy snow in a short period of time. 

Snow squalls are characterized by both heavy snow and strong winds that can create whiteout conditions. 

This results in rapidly deteriorating road conditions and often cause accidents. 

Thankfully, snow squalls typically last less than two hours.

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In recent years, the National Weather Service introduced Snow Squall Warnings to prepare travelers for these hazardous storms. 

These are issued where the highest threat for rapidly changing visibilities are most likely to occur. 

Much like tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, snow squall warnings are issued for small areas and short time frames. 

Snow squall warnings will trigger a wireless emergency alert on the phones of those in the warned area.

These are most likely to be issued during peak travel times like the morning and evening rush hour.

If you see a snow squall warning pop up on your phone, it's time to get off the roads until conditions improve.

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