What it means when there’s a snow squall

Boston experienced a bout of these snow bursts on Wednesday.

A light dusting of snow in Boston on Tremont Street left footprints made by pedestrians on Jan. 8.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service’s Boston branch tweeted out snow squall warnings, alerting people to whiteout conditions and wind speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

But what exactly is a snow squall, anyway?

It is almost like a line of thunderstorms, but it’s in winter,” said Kim Buttrick of the National Weather Service in Norton. 

Buttrick explained that squalls happen along an arctic front, producing “widely scattered” snow showers.

“These snow showers will have snow coming down heavy, reducing visibility to near zero,” she said. “And it will come down heavy enough that it will give a quick, one-inch snowfall total in a short amount of time.”

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Buttrick noted that it’s especially dangerous to be on the road when this occurs.

“If the reduced visibility doesn’t get you, then you can spin out on the fast-accumulating snow,” she said.

Snow squalls typically last less than three hours, according to the NWS.

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