Possible changes to snow squall warning alerts in 2022


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Remember those snow squall warnings that would go off when we were grocery shopping, or even driving down the highway? I think we all do, but there may be some changes implemented in the near future to better inform us of the threat that snow squalls can have…

Snow Squalls are just one of winter’s most sudden and dangerous hazards for those living downwind of the Great Lakes. They’re defined as an intense, short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that can quickly reduce visibility to far less than a quarter mile, coat roads in a blanket of snow, and are usually accompanied by gusty winds.

Snow Squall Warnings have been around for a few years now, and currently activate the wireless emergency alert system on our phones – but that may change coming in 2022. 

The National Weather Service in Buffalo asked for public feedback on snow squall warnings asking if they should be switched to a similar format that severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings are currently in.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michael Fries from the National Weather Service in Buffalo says, “…I guess the results of this survey and input from the survey will likely be incorporated into changes of snow squall warnings in 2022, and that would be to move these to the hazard source impact format that I mentioned as well as give snow squall warnings tags….”

These “tags” would label the snow squall warning as radar indicated or observed, similar to tornado warnings. And to be clear, tornado warnings and snow squall warnings are both very different weather events, but they can both be dangerous and even fatal even to the most experienced drivers. This change would also give forecasters the ability to decide whether or not snow squall warnings are “base” or “significant” , and the ones labeled significant would be the only ones to go off on our phones as an alert. 

“Although at the moment all snow squall warnings still tag wireless emergency alerts, that may change in the near future.”

So the biggest takeaway from this potential change, is that we’re essentially upping the ante on what it takes to trigger these widespread alerts on your phone. Instead of every Snow Squall Warning being alerted, only those that are expected to be particularly dangerous will end up alarming our phones. 

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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