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You may see a new weather warning this winter

It has already been an active start to the cold weather season after what seemed like 4, maybe 5 days at best of fall. With no sign of sustained mild temperatures in the short term, our blood is already beginning to thicken and some are starting to embrace the cold weather that makes us so hardy and proud. But there is still a long way to go as we plunge into our darkest and coldest months.

Julie Thoma – October Snow

We may be out of severe weather season, but that doesn’t mean the watches and warning stop. While the National Weather Service says that heat is the number one weather killer, according to one CDC report, cold is actually the number one cause of death across all weather fatalities. The CDC and NOAA, the National Weather Service’s parent organization, appear to disagree on weather fatalities in general, which is something I have asked both organizations about, to which the responses were an email equivalent of a shoulder shrug. However, at least one NWS employee has noted to me that the CDC is the official record keeper for weather related U.S. fatalities for everything except for lightning.

Either way, the cold is deadly. Combine the cold and snow and we face a formidable foe this winter. That’s why there are many different watches, warnings, and advisories issued during the winter months including:

  • Blizzard Watch/Warning
  • Winter storm Watch/Warning
  • Winter Weather Advisory
  • Wind Chill Watch/Warning/Advisory
  • Extreme Cold Watch/Warning (never issued here)
  • Ice Storm Warning
  • Freezing Rain Advisory
  • Freezing Fog Advisory

That is a lot already and each product will be issued in specific circumstances. This year, as of November 1st, the NWS is implementing a new winter warning known as the Snow Squall Warning.

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. Sudden whiteout conditions and slick roadways can lead to high speed accidents with large pileups that result in injuries and fatalities.

A Snow Squall Warning will be very similar to a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning in that it will be a short-fused, polygon based warning to fit the specific storm and area impacted, not county based, and will last 30 to 60 minutes.

These will be rarely issued, but if you see this warning issued it will be best to avoid travel in that area for a few hours. They will be issued for bands of heavy snow rather than widespread snow showers.

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Brandon Libby


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