National Weather Service testing new snow squall warnings

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The National Weather Service is testing a new snow squall warning system designed to help motorists in whiteout conditions avoid 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.

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.

A snow squall last March caused white-out conditions on the West Shore and Warren Street bypasses in Berks County. The same day, a snow squall caused a pileup that killed one person and injured 23 others on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County.

"Annual highway fatalities from these events can exceed fatalities due to tornadoes in many years," the National Weather Service said.

The warning system is being tested in areas of New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Michigan and Wyoming.

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

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