HELENA — If the lightning and thunder didn't startle you last night, then perhaps the snow squall warning and buzzing on your cell phone did.
In this week's Weather Wise, a snow squall warning is a newer severe weather message.
What a storm! Snow, hail, graupel, wind, lightning and thunder.
A snow squall is a short lived burst of snow that is accompanied by very strong and gusty wind.
It can create whiteout or blizzard conditions making travel dangerous and in some cases temporarily impossible.
Snow squalls come on quick and they hit hard. Visibility can drop below one quarter mile due to blowing snow.
Snow squall warnings were introduced last fall by the National Weather Service.
It's the same concept as a severe thunderstorm warning, flash flood warning or even a tornado warning when there is localized severe weather that has life-threatening capability.
In such weather conditions, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) sends out direct messages to phones and televisions in the immediate localized area.
This type of warning is geared toward motorists. Drivers should slow down, turn on lights, or even pull off to the side of the road until conditions improve.
If you're not in a car but outside, seek shelter immediately like you would ahead of a thunderstorm.
A snow squall warning will last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, but the memory of that storm will last for a lot longer.
And now you're a little more Weather Wise.