PWinter is kicking into full gear across much of the United States and many have already seen their first significant snowfall and snowstorms. Driving in snowy, foggy, or icy conditions can give even the most experienced motorist a challenge on the road. According to the Department of Transportation, there are approximately 1.2 million vehicle accidents per year related to weather, which leads to on average 6,000 fatalities and approximately 445,000 injuries due to these dangerous road conditions. So, what do you need to know to get to your destination in tricky, slippery winter weather safely?
Make sure you check your local forecast and road conditions before you leave the house! There are many ways to do that between television, social media, and even radio! This can help tremendously and keep you informed and prepared for what you could face on the road. The National Weather Service issues snow squall warnings which notify the public when a quick burst of snow occurs that can cause limited visibility and hazardous road conditions. Snow squalls are defined as intense, limited duration periods of moderate to heavy snowfall, which are accompanied by gusty surface winds. A snow squall is associated with strong cold front passages. Snow squalls approximately last a half hour to an hour in duration. They are common in the winter and can produce sudden whiteout conditions. If temperatures rapidly fall while a snow squall is occurring, surfaces can become very dangerous to travel on. These weather conditions can cause accidents if motorists are not careful when caught in one.
For more significant storms in the wintertime, the National Weather Service issues winter weather advisories, winter storm watches/warnings, and in the most severe case blizzard warnings. A winter weather advisory is issued when winter weather conditions will cause significant inconveniences outside. Winter storm watches are issued twelve to thirty-six hours in advance of severe wintry weather like heavy snow or ice accumulation. The amount and timing of the precipitation might not be fully known at the time of the watch but it allows the public time to prepare. A winter storm watch is upgraded to a warning when meteorologists forecast four inches or more of snow or sleet in a twelve hour time period, six inches of snow in a twenty-four hour period or more than one fourth in ice accretion. The fourth winter weather warning is a blizzard warning. Blizzard warnings are issued when conditions are forecasted or are producing strong winds and heavy snow which can cause blinding conditions (zero visibility) on the roadway, deep snow drifts and below zero wind chill temperatures. When one of these alerts are issued for your area, it is important to pay attention to the details that could impact not just your travel, but your life.
Regardless of the type of winter precipitation you’re facing this season, it's always important to take safety precautions to keep yourself and others safe! Tune into local meteorologist’s forecasts for the latest updates on your local weather, have an emergency kit in your car and when traveling in hazardous conditions, reduce speed and make sure your vehicle is in top shape to handle winter! For more information on winter weather alerts and safety click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
Photo Credit: National Weather Service