CLARKSBURG, WV (WBOY): As we go through each and every winter here in West Virginia, besides our normal snow storms we see, we also see periods of snow called snow squalls. These snow squalls can reduce visibility very quickly to near zero, leave some light snow accumulation and cause hazardous driving conditions creating a risk to life and property.

To help people get alerted to these snow squalls, the National Weather Service has created a new type of snow warning to help convey the danger people face from an extreme reduction in visibility during short-term bursts of heavy snow. 

The National Weather Service will now issue a Snow Squall Warning when conditions warrant during these bursts or periods of heavy now in different areas of the United States starting in early January including some counties in West Virginia.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is one of six offices across the United States that will begin using these warnings, and will issue them if needed for their West Virginia Counties including Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Tucker and Garrett County in Maryland, in addition to the other counties they cover in Eastern Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Snow squalls have historically been a contributor to major highway pile-ups due to their brief but intense snowfall rates, which drop visibility at moments notice while making road conditions extremely hazardous. Snow squalls can occur in situations where there is no major winter storm is in progress and may only produce minor accumulations from events such as a Northwest Flow event bringing snow showers which is common in West Virginia.

Other National Weather Service Forecast Offices that will be issuing these Snow Squall Warnings beginning January 3rd, 2018 are Binghamton, New York, State College, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New York, Burlington, Vermont, Detroit, Michigan and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Some of the other offices that will be issuing them in addition to Pittsburgh are along the great lakes, and are prone to the lake-effect snow squall situations which are common in those areas.

If the National Weather Service issues a Snow Squall Warning for your area this winter, these are some of the precautions you should take…

  • Avoid or delay travel in the warning area until the Snow Squall passes your location
  • If you do have to travel, give yourself extra time to get to your location and use extra caution when traveling on affected roads
  • Be alert for rapid changes in visibility and slick road conditions which may lead to accidents very quickly

These new Snow Squall Warnings will be similar in duration to other short term warnings issued for our area such as Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.

As always when winter weather moves into the region, stay with WBOY 12 News and StormTracker 12 for the latest winter weather information…