Snow squalls: Michigan's deadliest weather hazard now has a new warning

Posted at 10:03 AM, Nov 03, 2017

Michigan’s deadliest weather hazard now has a new warning. Starting January 3, 2018, the National Weather Service in White Lake, Michigan will issue Snow Squall Warnings for Metro Detroit. 

Snow squalls are sudden bursts of heavy snow greatly affecting visibility and often referred to as a “whiteout." These brief, but intense snowfall rates can cause road conditions to deteriorate quickly and often develop in narrow bands across I-94, I-96 and I-69 in southeast Lower Michigan. Many of Michigan’s deadly chain reaction pileups have been caused by snow squalls, like the massive multi-car accident on I-96 in Livingston County last December. 

The new Snow Squall Warning will be issued for heavy snow reducing visibility to ¼ or less lasting 15 minutes or more. It may also be considered when rapidly falling temperatures cause flash freezing potential on area roads. The National Weather Service will also factor in the time of day and traffic volumes when issuing this new warning. 

Snow Squall Warnings will be issued about 30 to 60 minutes ahead of the event when detected by radar, but not hours in advance. The warning may only last for one hour or a few hours, which is similar to current tornado, severe thunderstorm or flash flood warnings. The goal is to provide life-saving information during these highly localized and extremely dangerous weather events.   

Southeast Michigan is one of seven weather offices in the U.S. implementing this new Snow Squall Warning this winter.  Other offices include Buffalo, New York; Burlington, Vermont; State College, Pennsylvania; Binghamton, New York; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.