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Weather Wise: What are Snow Squalls?

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Posted at 4:54 PM, Nov 28, 2022

A lot of Montanans were startled at some point Sunday by our cell phones going bonkers with an alarm sound. Many areas in the state were hit with a snow squall warning just prior to getting blasted by impressive snow and wind.

Through Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening, snow squall warnings were issued for portions of Montana alerting people of heavy snow and powerful wind gusts creating extremely dangerous travel conditions. If you do not remember ever experiencing one of these warnings, that's because the national weather service just implemented snow squall warnings only five years ago.

A snow squall is defined as a short but intense burst of snow accompanied by strong wind that can produce whiteout conditions. A Snow Squall Warning usually covers a small, targeted area, is typically in effect for 30-60 minutes and is similar to tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings.

Several lines of heavy snow quickly moved through parts of Montana in the afternoon Sunday and into the night, coinciding with one of the biggest travel days of the year as people were traveling home from the Thanksgiving holiday. In these circumstances, serious injuries and deaths have resulted from people exiting their vehicles during a snow squall with other drivers not seeing or being able to stop.

If driving, pulling well off the side of the road, putting on hazard lights, and staying inside the vehicle is the best thing you can do. If you are just outside, seek shelter immediately like you would with a severe thunderstorm. If this is not possible, stay where you, get behind some protection and ride it out.