LUZERNE COUNTY -- Whether or not you like the snow, winter is coming, and that means the chance for dangerous travel conditions. The National Weather Service offices in our area are implementing a warning system this winter to help keep drivers safe during snow squalls.
"In less than a minute, a minute and a half, you can have two inches of snow on the ground and that's when bad things happen," Sam Galante of PennDOT explained.
A snow squall is a short but intense period of heavy snow with blowing and gusty winds. If you live in northeastern or central Pennsylvania, you probably know that, and you have probably been caught in one while driving.
"With snow, it's very difficult, especially when you're driving a van. It's not like a four-wheel truck or anything like that," said Jason Damico of New York. He was passing through Luzerne County Tuesday afternoon on his drive down to North Carolina.
This winter, the National Weather Service offices in our area will send out Snow Squall Warnings for the first time.
If there was a way to be alerted like there are with Amber alerts, tornado alerts, anything like that. It would probably be helpful," Damico said.
The warnings will be similar in format to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. They will be issued for small geographic areas for specific times.
"When the squall comes, it can be a day like today, the sun is shining. It's a very nice day. All of the sudden, the curtain closes. It's a whiteout. You can't see the front of your car. People start to hit the breaks," Galante said.
Officials with the Luzerne County 911 call center say snow squalls lead to pile-ups on the interstate. When you have dozens of people calling in the same incident, it wreaks havoc on first responders. They say they hope a warning system will help that.
"I think that anything that will improve the safety of these snowbirds coming down the mountains is fabulous," Carol McCarthy of Ontario said. Carol and her husband were driving down to Florida Tuesday morning. They spend most of the fall and winter there, but when they come back up for Christmas every year, they run into snow squalls.
The warning system is intended to keep drivers safe, but PennDOT officials also look forward to this helping them get the roads cleared faster.
"Hopefully, they can nail down a better time frame and location where the squalls are and we can put more resources in that area. Instead of trying to cover the whole county, when maybe we only have to be worried about a certain section of the interstate," Galante explained.
The National Weather Service in Binghamton and State College, both of the offices we use in our area, will be using the Snow Squall Warning system. They say it will begin on or about December 4.