Blinded By The... Squall

January 8, 2020 // Article by: Nathan Wiles

Most everyone has experienced those hit-or-miss thunderstorms in the summer where it’s sunny one minute and heavy rain the next. While it’s never a guarantee that you’ll be the unlucky one caught outside, conditions can rapidly go south in a matter of seconds leaving little or no time to prepare. Well now imagine this same type of phenomenon but with snow. Sunny skies quickly turn to a blanket of white with howling winds and nothing but you in sight. Let’s just hope that you’re not on the freeway going 65 mph at that very moment in time…

‘Snow squall’ has developed into a term that the general public is becoming increasingly exposed to. And while it’s something that many of us may already have years of experience with, the National Weather Service has already exercised their Snow Squall Warning system across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and Northeast this year, a product which is relatively new to the agency.


Just like severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings that get pushed to your phone or television sets, an alert about a snow squall now has greater visibility than ever before due to the high impacts that it can have. As we’ve already seen in years past, major interstates have turned into parking lots in some portions of the country due to these white-out conditions. The hope is with a fast notification that everyone can see, proper actions will be taken to prevent such unfortunate events.

So what leads to the development of these short-lived heavy downpours of snow? Well just like with a thunderstorm, three main ingredients are needed: Moisture, Instability and Lift. Certainly in the winter, a smaller dose of each part will do – just sprinkle in some strong winds and a cold air-mass and enjoy the show, from inside of course.