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What is a snow squall? Snow squall warning issued for parts of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts

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Snow squall warnings were in effect as an arctic front brought intense bouts of heavy snow and strong winds to portions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said. Snow squalls are considered by the weather agency to be “one of the most dangerous winter weather phenomena.”

The warnings were in effect for portions of eastern Pennsylvania and New York, as well as northern New Jersey and western Massachusetts. The NWS confirmed that snow squalls were reported earlier in the afternoon in all four states. By the evening, some of the squalls had cleared. 

Heavy snow brought whiteout conditions with zero visibility. Wind gusts in some areas topped 40 mph, making for travel conditions that ranged from hazardous to life-threatening, the NWS said.

A wind advisory is in effect for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut until midnight ET. Wind gusts could reach up to 50 mph, CBS New York reports. 

“Reduce your speed and turn on headlights!” the agency said. “During snow squalls, the visibility may suddenly drop to near zero in whiteout conditions.”

What is a snow squall? 

According to the National Weather Service, a snow squall is “an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibilities and is often accompanied by gusty winds.” 

A strong cold front pushes through later today and has the potential to trigger a few snow squalls! Snow squalls can be intense, but typically last on the order of minutes. If squalls develop it would may be best to delay travel. Check out the info graphic on snow squall safety! pic.twitter.com/Bhg0zsYdwK

— NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) February 19, 2022

Unlike a snowstorm, which can last for many hours or even days, snow squalls occur in quick, intense bursts, the National Weather Service said. A snow squall usually only lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. 

The service warned that snow squalls can bring “sudden whiteout conditions” as well as “slick roadways” that can lead to traffic accidents. 

“Although snow accumulations are typically an inch or less, the added combination of gusty winds, falling temperatures and quick reductions in visibility can cause extremely dangerous conditions for motorists,” the service wrote on its website. “Unfortunately, there is a long history of deadly traffic accidents associated with snow squalls.” 

Victoria Albert contributed reporting.

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