Utah Hit by Snow Squall: Here’s What That Means

by Courtney Blackann

After heavy snowfall over the weekend, parts of Utah are being slammed by a snow squall. The state issued two warnings Monday evening as those flurries just wouldn’t quit. White-out conditions on the road made it dangerous for drivers. So what makes a snow squall different from a blizzard? It’s about how quickly to storm moves in.

“It’s typically associated with a strong cold front like the one we had today,” said Hayden Mahan to KSL News Radio. “It moves in, and it moves out relatively quickly.”

By nearly 4 p.m. Monday, northern Utah officials issued a warning. One hour later, snow covered the ground in Logan and Cache Valley. The dangerous part about a snow squall is just how quickly it arrives. Residents in Utah were left in freezing and icy conditions following the storm.

National Weather Service officials released another warning at 6:45 p.m. that same evening as the hits kept coming. While a blizzard is strong enough to blow strong winds and last for hours, snow squalls typically last for a much shorter amount of time.

Due to the snow squall, however, COVID-19 testing sites are closing in Highland High, Saratoga Springs, Davis Technical College, and the Old Workforce Services Building.

Thousands on West Coast Without Power

Utah isn’t the only state experiencing unusual snow activity. A major storm that swept the west coast has left thousands of California, Oregon, and Washington residents without any power. By Monday morning, officials reported there were 56,000 California homes, 11,000 Oregon homes, and 6,000 Washington homes without power due to the massive snowstorms.

The worst of it may not be over yet either. The Sierra region of California also expects to get another two to four feet of snow. This means more potential power outages and possibly more complete whiteout conditions.

Additionally, the National Weather Service warns that “Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, closing airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services.”

Different Kinds of Storms

Their website goes on to say:

“The weight of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost. In the mountains, heavy snow can lead to avalanches. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and the loss of business can have severe economic impacts on cities and towns.”

The site also offers explanations of each kind of snowstorm. The National Weather Service explains that there are different criteria for each type of snowfall. You can read them below:

  • Blizzard: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile for 3 hours or more.
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
  • Avalanche: A mass of tumbling snow. More than 80 percent of midwinter avalanches are triggered by a rapid accumulation of snow and 90 percent of those avalanches occur within 24 hours of snowfall. An avalanche may reach a mass of a million tons and travel at speeds up to 200 mph.