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White out conditions make snow squalls extremely dangerous

Posted at 10:04 AM, Jan 09, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — While snowstorms are a normal occurrence that most Utahns understand and are prepared for, snow squalls are completely different, with many unaware of their danger.

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Unlike snowstorms, squalls move in quickly and are extremely intense, bringing white out conditions along with dropping temperatures that create icy road conditions in a matter of minutes.

Squalls usually last no longer than an hour and their impacts are highly localized. Officials often call a snow squall a thunderstorm in the winter.

"These snow squalls, they they move in quickly, they drop a lot of snow in a short amount of time and then they move on and so they can be over much quicker than your typical storm, but they can leave a lot in their wake," explained UDOT spokesperson John Gleason.

Snow Squall Warnings, like the one issued for northern Utah on Tuesday afternoon, are similar to tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings which pinpoint specific areas. The National Weather Service is forecasting the squalls to move into the area at approximately 6 p.m. in the Logan area, and by 8 p.m. in the Salt Lake Valley.

Because of reduced visibility caused by squall white outs, the danger of driving in winter conditions is raised considerably. The NWS believes commuters on Tuesday evening in the Cache Valley and areas between Layton to Ogden will be affected the most.

"You really want to slow down and make sure that you know, we say it every winter, every storm, slow down and drive for those conditions, but especially in a snow squall, you're not going to have the visibility to be going anywhere near freeway speeds," said Gleason.

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Photos taken just minutes apart Tuesday morning on US-89/91 near Mantua show how dangerous the roads can get during snow squalls

Commuters should avoid being on the roads, if possible, during the times when squalls are forecast, but leave extra time to travel as visibility and road conditions will change rapidly. Drivers should keep their headlines on and refrain from slamming on the brakes to avoid a chain reaction accident.