ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Did your phone go off this morning at around 8 a.m.? It was supposed to now that Snow Squall Warnings, issued by the NWS Buffalo, have added them to the Weather Emergency Alert system, similar to Tornadoes and Flash Floods.
Here is an in-depth explanation of how these came to be:
Snow squalls have been around for decades, but snow squall warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) are new. A few offices in Pennsylvania started issuing some warnings in 2017 mid-season snow season.
Michael Fries, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the NWS Buffalo says they needed to notify the public in a better way of dangerous weather.
“The offices were trying to find to find ways to notify people of the conditions that would be such that would cause major accidents on interstates,” said Fries.
The snow squall warning was born, and these past few weeks have been good examples of why we need them, according to Fries.
“Since those snow squalls before Christmas, there have been three massive accidents that have involved dozens of vehicles and injuries and deaths,” he said.
As of this season now every office in the country has the warnings. This year the Weather Emergency Alert system is now triggered as well when they are issued. As of January 8th, all cell-phone carriers are part of the system.
“Wherever the warning box is drawn, any cell phone tower in that box that we draw is activated to send a warning to all the handsets in that box,” said Fries. That means vibration and notification that there is a snow squall heading in your direction.
Snow Squalls are generally defined as a quick-moving snow system that will drop visibility to less than 1/4 mile, bring strong winds, quick accumulations on roads that will cause a flash freeze, and the duration is less than an hour.
This is a judgment call by the meteorologists at the specific National Weather Service. “We take into account where the infrastructure is, so we’re not going to issue a snow squall warning for a rural area without any main thoroughfare going through it.” Fries said the Morning rush was considered with the warning Wednesday morning.
“Suddenly you couldn’t see anything,” said Oleg Babkov in Rochester. “The skies were super gray, and then it looked like a blizzard just rolled through, and then maybe ten minutes after the squall ended it was clear skies, sunny, blue skies.” Babkov likes the warnings but opted out of them because he is a musician and cannot have his phone going off during a rehearsal or performance.
Isaac Finlan of Rochester did get the notification Wednesday morning, and when asked what he thought: ”Just that it would be another snowstorm in Rochester, snow squalls. woo!”
He has lived here for five years and felt, while the warning was important, the notification was a bit too much.
This is not recommended by the NWS, but If you would like to opt-out of the warnings, you can do so within the settings of your phone.