National Weather Service updates snow squall warnings, after last winter's pilot in State College
The National Weather Service has new guidelines for when it sends out warnings about snow squalls, which its State College office helped to pilot last year.
Jonathan Guseman is a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.
“A snow squall is essentially a very brief, intense blizzard. So say, sometimes on the order of two or three minutes, we'll put a snow squall warning out if we're highly confident that that's what's occurring at that point. But [it’s] a brief or very drastic reduction in visibility,” Guseman said.
Guseman said their office, which covers 33 counties, implemented a new system for snow squall warnings last winter. When they’re highly confident of a snow squall along with icy conditions, it’s labeled “severe.” Then cell phones in the area get a wireless emergency alert. Before, every snow squall warning would trigger an alert.
“If you're not driving, [the] best thing to do is not to get out driving. But if you are at that point, [the] best thing to do is safely exit the highway as quickly as possible. So if that's if that's not possible, then slowly reduce your speed. Really urge folks not to make any sudden movements,” Guseman said.
Guseman said it’s best to be proactive and look at the forecast before traveling. He hopes the fine-tuned emergency alerts will help drivers avoid accidents.
“Last winter itself, we of course had the horrific and very unfortunate pile up in Schuylkill County further east on I-81 in March of 2022,” Guseman said.
Six people died during that pile up. State police said there was an active snow squall at the time.
Starting this winter, every National Weather Service office in the country will use the updated and more focused snow squall warning system. NWS said in the past many people complained about over-use of alerts.