MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Your cell phone may alert you to a new type of weather warning this winter, WCCO director of meteorology Mike Augustyniak explains.

When dangerous summer storms threaten, at a moment’s notice, WCCO’s weather tells you how to stay safe. Winter storms are dangerous too, but most evolve slowly, allowing for hours or even days to prepare.

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There is an exception — snow squalls. They’re the snow equivalent of a torrential downpour, like the one that hit Duluth back in April.

Intense bursts of snow can produce whiteout conditions in seconds, turn dry pavement to snow-covered, and bring strong gusty winds.

Snow squalls aren’t as common around here as they are in areas that have milder winter, or regularly receive lake-effect snowfall, but they do occur. That’s why, for the first time this winter, all National Weather Service offices in our region will be able to issue Snow Squall Warnings.

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Joe Moore is with the National Weather Service in Duluth, where this type warning was tested earlier this spring.

“We’ll see a snow Squall warning when we have a really heavy snow shower that’s moving across a small localized area, it’s producing extremely heavy snowfall rates down to almost Blizzard like conditions. While we also have below freezing road temperatures,” he said. “This is the only winter weather alert that we send that will actually go to most people’s cell phones through the wireless Emergency Alert System.”

WCCO will also pass along snow squall warnings to you on the air, on WCCO.com, and on the CBS Minnesota weather app, available for free in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

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“If you can stay off the road, or if you’re on the road, if you can pull over and wait it out, you’re going to be much safer,” Moore said.

Mike Augustyniak