What is a snow squall? What to know about the weather phenomenon that can 'make roads a sheet of ice in minutes'

The polar vortex isn't the only weather phenomenon that has people talking this morning. "Snow squalls" are popping up in the Northeast and elsewhere.



So what are they? Often referred to as a whiteout, a "snow squall" is a sudden, moderately heavy snowfall that blows snow and strong surface winds, suddenly reducing visibility, AccuWeather explains.

Though the snow accumulation is not typically significant because they are so brief, snow squalls can create dangerous driving conditions due to visibility issues and quickly-forming ice.

Snow squalls actually have similarities to the types of thunderstorms you usually see in the summer, AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno explained.

"A snow squall is similar to a summertime thunderstorm in that it can have heavy bouts of precipitation in a short period of time and strong, gusty winds," he said, "except instead of getting rain, you're getting snow. And when you get heavy snow and wind, you could reduce visibility and make roads a sheet of ice in minutes."

MORE WINTER WEATHER STORIES

Here are the things that define a blizzard

What is a polar vortex?

Driving on black ice: Tips to avoid the hidden road dangers

How to safely drive in snow
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