Why did your phone go off due to a “blizzard warning” last night?
At 4:55 p.m., cell phones across the Omaha metro and the rest of eastern to western Iowa blared the following alert: “Snowstorm Warning until 6:00 p.m. Slow down or delay travel! Be prepared for a sudden drop to near-zero visibility and roads Icy in the middle of heavy snow. For many of us, this was the first time we had seen this alert or even heard the term “blizzard.” So, what does this alert mean, and what constitutes a “blizzard” versus regular snowfall? How rare is this in Nebraska and Iowa? These questions are answered below!
A blizzard is a small band of moderate to heavy snow that produces gusty winds and lasts several minutes. Blizzards differ from general snowfall because the effects are more severe for a short period of time. In particular, the main danger with snowstorms is a sharp drop in visibility to near zero or whiteout conditions. This makes driving in blizzards particularly dangerous, hence the use of a blizzard warning.
The National Weather Service has the option to activate a “Wireless Emergency Alert” system on your phone the same way a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning alerts you. This is mainly because those affected drive their cars and are therefore less interested in their phones.
Snowstorm warnings can be considered a “severe thunderstorm warning” for winter storms, and when they are issued, you should take precautions if you are traveling. The safest thing to do is to stop and wait, because driving can be dangerous. If you plan to travel, stay inside and wait. If you have to travel in a snowstorm, take it very slowly and keep as much distance from other cars as possible. You’ll never know what awaits you if you can’t see beyond your windshield.
Unfortunately, that proved to be the case yesterday across eastern Nebraska due to the snow storm. Along Nebraska Highway 21 near Lindsay in Platte County, north of Columbus and about 90 minutes west of Omaha, a 25-vehicle crash occurred as visibility suddenly dropped to near zero. Although there were some minor injuries, no one was killed in the buildup.
So, how rare are blizzard warnings? For eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, they are very rare. The National Weather Service began a blizzard warning in 2018, and as of yesterday there was no blizzard warning for eastern Northeast or western Iowa. However, they are more common in western Nebraska, where 36 blizzard warnings have been issued.
Bottom line, if you’re under a blizzard warning in the future, just stay inside. If you are driving, stop and wait.
(tags translatable) KMTV Weather