What You Need to Know About Snow Squalls
We talked with a local meteorologist to get the lowdown on the winter phenomenon that hit the Hudson Valley hard this year.
Adobe Stock / Doug Baines
What in the world is a snow squall?
Until this winter, the world “squall” was a largely unused and under-the-radar term for many a Hudson Valleyite. Then the great squall of January hit, bringing with it winter winds, icy snow, and a slew of weather alerts.
Thanks to the chaos of the short-lived storm, we reached out to acclaimed meteorologist (and Hudson Valley native) Ben Noll for the lowdown on all things squalls. Here’s what he had to say:
Squalls are short
According to Noll’s definition, a snow squall is an intense, short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibility and is often accompanied by gusty winds. The storm only lasts about 30 minutes, but it can produce whiteout or blizzard-like conditions that leave an inch of snow in their wake.
Very poor road conditions out there! Be safe.https://t.co/Jy5EYfLNjA— Ben Noll (@BenNollWeather) January 30, 2019
Squalls are not the norm for us
“[They’re] a relatively unusual phenomenon for the Hudson Valley,” Noll reveals. “Since we are a valley, weather features tracking in from the west have a tendency to break apart as they ride over the rough terrain of the Catskill Mountains.”
❄ Snow squall getting closer! ❄— Ben Noll (@BenNollWeather) January 30, 2019
⚠ Incoming Sullivan County, time to get off the roads!
It will cross into the #HudsonValley around 2:00 pm and barrel through the area by 4:00 pm with near blizzard conditions. pic.twitter.com/WzjkrmJTQr
Squalls are powerful
The squall that hit the Valley on Wednesday, January 30 was associated with an intense cold front, explains Noll. The cold air came all the way from northern Canada, which gave it the extra “juice” it needed to power across the northeast.
Wow! ❄ ❄ ❄— Ben Noll (@BenNollWeather) January 30, 2019
Near zero visibility 😳https://t.co/spZlcb2NWv
With squalls, timing is everything
Thanks to today’s modernized forecasting, schools and businesses can receive early notification about severe changes in the weather. Schools can dismiss early and drivers can get off the road in a timely manner. “If the [January] squall had come in the middle of the night, it would have had a lower impact because less people would have been awake and on the roads,” Noll says.
Can confirm: crazy ❄https://t.co/1kNA4CUq74— Ben Noll (@BenNollWeather) January 30, 2019
Squalls can be fun — as long as you stay safe
“If you are safe at home, it might be fun to head out into the winter wonderland that is created when the squall is blowing through your town,” Noll notes. “just remember to bundle up, because the weather after the squall will be much colder than what it was prior.”