National Weather Service testing new warnings for snow squalls

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The National Weather Service is testing a new snow squall warning system designed to help motorists in whiteout conditions avoid deadly chain reaction crashes at high speeds.

During the winter, the agency now issues advisories and warnings involving storms that can last for a day or two over a wide area.

Snow squalls, however, occur over a much smaller area and typically last less than an hour — often with little warning.

David Soroka, head of winter programs for the weather service, said the system being tested would provide warnings for a smaller geographic area — similar to summer thunderstorm warnings — in areas that have been prone to snow squalls.

In addition, testing will be done in Arizona on a new warning system for dust storms, which can cause similar problems for motorists.

The snow squall warning system is being tested in areas of New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Michigan and Wyoming, with the information distributed by media and other methods.

In many snow squalls, “people are driving the speed limit, it’s dry, it’s sunny or it’s not snowing … and so you’re not expecting to be driving in that kind of bare-knuckle situation, and you’re not prepared for it,” Soroka said.