First snow squall alert hits Northland

The National Weather Service says snow squall alerts should be taken seriously.

The National Weather Service in Duluth issued its first snow squall warning Thursday, April 9, around 7:40 a.m. The emergency alert was sent to inform those who were out driving at the time of a possible hazard. (Screenshot)

Many people in the Northland received a loud emergency alert on their cellphones Thursday morning for a snow squall — the first notification of this kind sent by the National Weather Service in Duluth.

So what is a snow squall and why the emergency alert sent?

"Snow squalls are issued at times when it's basically near blizzard-like conditions, but it's only for a very short period of time," said Bryan Howell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth. "This was really to target folks who were out driving on the roads."

Howell said as they watched the storm go through the Hibbing area they noticed their webcam's visibility dropping to a quarter of a mile. Heavy snow was falling and it was piling up quickly on the roadways, creating hazardous conditions, which prompted the alert.


"We were seeing roads going from wet pavement to snow-covered within a matter of five minutes," he said. "It was a really quick change in weather conditions that people weren't expecting. That's why we went with the snow squall warning to get the heightened awareness out there."

According to the Weather Service, about 1.4 inches of snow fell within about 30 minutes.

Snow squall alerts are issued based on what the Weather Service sees on radar returns and where it's moving. Howell said a person may or may not receive an alert, depending on which cell tower their phone pings from.

"When we do issue them it's something to be taken seriously," he said.

Snow Squall Graphic.png
National Weather Service Graphic

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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