Wireless Emergency Alerts, or W.E.A., are text message like alerts sent straight to your phone based on your geographic locations for a number of possibilities that could impact you or your property. Most commonly, they are used for severe weather, but they are designed to carry a number of different types of alerts.
One alert not seen in Central Illinois is a WEA for “Snow Squall Warnings.” The National Weather Service issues Snow Squall Warnings much like they would severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings. A polygon covering an impacted region where the NWS highlights a snow squall may cause hazardous weather, usually in the next 30 to 60 minutes.
A Snow Squall is an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibility and is often accompanied by gusty winds. Some have called them micro-blizzards because of the high impact nature in such a localized area a snow squall can have. These warnings are particularly issued and are important for transportation interests. Sudden whiteout conditions and slick roadways can lead to high speed accidents with large pileups that result in injuries and fatalities. This new type of warning first was made in 2018 to distinguish a small localized high impact snow event as opposed to a winter storm.
If you’re driving and you receive a WEA for a Snow Squall Warning, prepare for dangerous travel conditions immediately. If you come across a snow squall with near white-out conditions on an interstate or other high-speed highway, proceed with caution and be prepared to emergency stop if you come across stalled traffic. If it is too dangerous to drive, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably into a parking lot, driveway, side road or somewhere well off the main roadway. Stopping in place is one of the biggest causes of serious wrecks during Snow Squalls, as other traffic doesn’t pay attention and rear ends a vehicle trying to take precautions, causing serious injury.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are an integral part of staying safe and keeping your family out of danger. Be sure you have your WEAs turned on in your phone so you can stay informed ahead of the storm.