Warning! Snow Squall Slices Through Utah

January 27, 2022


Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Author: Ray Boren

While out for a winter walk along the east shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake on December 27, 2021, I heard the oddest intermittent squawk. The sound was a new kind of text alert sent out by the National Weather Service. The alert warned a hazardous “snow squall” was coming our way. I snapped a few photos of a low, roiling band of clouds from the lake shore and headed home — even as two more alerts sounded on my phone. The turbulent clouds inevitably diverted me to a higher vantage in the suburban community of Bountiful, Utah, where I snapped this photo of a low, beveled shelf cloud chiseling its way southeast across the lake directly toward Salt Lake City. The National Weather Service Salt Lake City later confirmed this shelf cloud occurrence on its Twitter account, tweeting subscribers and photographers to “send us your ’shelfies!’”

News reports later explained the first-ever alerts were issued because the intense cold front was moving extremely quickly and was approaching Utah’s Wasatch Front cities and interstate freeways during the evening rush hour. The National Weather Service further clarified the snow event was indeed the first such squall warning issued for the Wasatch Front. They also described that snow squalls are limited duration weather events involving moderate to heavy snowfall accompanied by high surface winds that together lead to reduced visibility and near whiteout conditions. In conjunction with the snow and wind, rapidly tumbling temperatures can cause dangerous conditions for motorists. Like other occurrences of squalls, winter snow squalls are similar in appearance to those that accompany strong summer thunderstorms.

The snow was flying well before I made it home — right behind a snowplow truck much of the way — but I made it there before the worst of it. The swift blizzard only dropped about 3 inches (7.62 cm) of snow on my yard, then departed as quickly as it came.

Photo details: NIKON D3200, f/4, ISO- 640, 1/60 second exposure

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