By Katrina Hapner, contributing writer for Telegraph Local
On Wednesday, December 18, 2019, millions of people along the east coast had their cell phones blow up with messages warning of an imminent snow squall. This led to much confusion regarding this little used weather term. The mayor’s office of New York City stated that the warning would be in effect until 4:15 Wednesday afternoon. The office stated in a tweet that the snow squall would arrive “quickly and powerfully, but it will not last very long. Be careful if you’re outside, visibility on the roads can decrease quickly.”
On New York City’s emergency warning Twitter, residents were told to be on the lookout for “blowing snow” that could cause “life-threatening” conditions with gusts of wind up to 30 mph. In New Jersey, it was reported that 11 counties were under snow squall warnings because of an “arctic front”. There were also four counties in Pennsylvania under snow squall warning. Motorists were encouraged to use alternate routes of travel or postponing travel, and staying alert for changes.
There were also lake effect snow warnings from Pennsylvania to New York with snowfall totals possibly being in the 6-10 inch range. Residents were warned of white out conditions with snow falling at 3-4 inches per hour. If that were not enough, temperatures have now plummeted into the teens in most areas.
The National Weather Service defines snow squalls as bursts of intense snowfall combined with very strong winds. Luckily these bursts do not usually last for long, with the typical snow squall having dissipated within three hours, though most are not more than an hour. These squalls have been compared to tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings, causing low visibility with blowing snow and white out conditions that can make for dangers travel conditions. These types of warnings are fairly new for the National Weather Service, with them being started only about a year ago. They are so new that NWS New York made a twitter post explaining snow squalls.
Soon after the text warnings went out New York City was enveloped completely. Even the Empire State Building disappeared into the oncoming storm. In a tweet from New York Metro Weather, the storm was photographed splitting midtown with beautiful untouched skies on one side and the dark clouds of the squall on the other. Social Media was abundant with photos and time-lapse videos of the squall moving through the city and blanketing even the tallest skyscrapers.
Forecasters are predicting most of the country will experience a warm up next week, making holiday travel a bit more pleasant.