Monday’s squall alert was new to Utah

Dec 28, 2021, 8:41 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2021, 9:48 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A lot of Utahns now have a good idea of what a snow squall is after one gusted through the Wasatch Front Monday night.

The squall itself was surprising, but the alert that preceded it was even more of a surprise for many Utahns.

It’s a system that we’re used to seeing for Amber Alerts, but the National Weather Service has the ability to use it too, and they’ve done it before in Utah. Monday, however, was the first time in the Salt Lake Valley.

“I heard the alarm, and usually it’s like an Amber Alert for a child or something,” said Forrest Kunz.

That’s what it felt like to a lot of people until they saw the weather message. This tool is relatively new.

“So we introduced the snow squall warning in 2018 nationally,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Wessler.

He said these types of alerts have been used to warn of squalls in rural areas.

“We issued one earlier this week, but this was the first one for a major populated area like the Wasatch Front,” Wessler said.

Suddenly that alert seemed all new to a lot of people. If you saw that blowing snow quickly roll in Monday, you know what a squall is.

“It looked, I don’t know, maybe it was windy and snowy. Very windy. It was like coming across sideways,” said Cali Keizer.

That’s a big reason why forecasters wanted to warn people.

“The idea is that if we can help save a couple of lives and protect some property and kind of get the word out, then that’s worth the minor inconvenience of the warning for some,” Wessler said.

You may see them for other major weather events too.

“We’ll issue those types of emergency alerts pushed to your phone for particularly destructive, severe thunderstorms, for example,” Wessler said.

If all goes as planned, you’ll get that warning before you find yourself in the middle of it.

“The alert was definitely at the right time because five minutes later I looked out the window and it was going crazy,” said Kunz.

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Those alerts are issued by location, using cell towers in the intended areas.

Wessler said they will use it very judiciously.

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Monday’s squall alert was new to Utah