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Snow squalls heading for York County, weather service warns

AP and staff reports

Dangerous snow squalls swept across Pennsylvania on Monday, leading to a pile-up on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County.

York County was under a snow squall warning until 3:15 p.m. Monday, with whiteout conditions and sudden low traction possible, according to the National Weather Service. 

Drivers were warned to delay travel until a snow squall passes. Black ice could cause roads, bridges and overpasses to quickly become slick and dangerous.

York County avoided the worst of the wintry conditions — so far — but nonetheless is forecast to see more winter weather as temperatures dip below freezing each night.

In addition to periods of scattered snowfall Monday with total accumulations up to half an inch, the county will likely see an icy mix of rain, snow and sleet on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

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Video posted on social media Monday showed tractor-trailers and other vehicles slamming into other stopped vehicles on I-81 and what appeared to be a tanker truck afire as the panicked onlooker ran from the road for safety.

The National Weather Service had warned of “numerous brief heavy snow squalls with very poor visibility."

“The squalls will quickly reduce the visibility to under one-half of a mile and coat the roads with snow," forecasters said, urging drivers to get off the road if possible or turn on hazard lights “and gradually slow down to avoid a chain reaction vehicular accident."

Mike Colbert, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in State College, said the weather service just started issuing warnings for snow squalls a few years ago, and pileups of the kind being reported were the reason they began doing so.

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“They are very heavy snow showers where if you are driving into them, you can go from partly cloudy or sunny skies into an instant blizzard in a matter of seconds. That’s why they are so dangerous,” he said.

Forecasters, however, call for a return to springlike conditions by week's end, with the high temperature expected to reach into the 70s on Thursday.

Here's the forecast for the next few days:

This Afternoon: Snow showers likely, mainly between 2pm and 5pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 33. Breezy, with a northwest wind around 21 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tonight: Scattered snow showers, mainly before 7pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 21. Northwest wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 43. Northwest wind 9 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.

Tuesday Night: Increasing clouds, with a low around 28. Light and variable wind.

Wednesday: A chance of rain, snow, freezing rain, and sleet before noon, then a chance of rain between noon and 2 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 54. Light southeast wind becoming south 5 to 10 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Wednesday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 45.

Thursday: Rain likely before 2 p.m, then showers after 2 p.m. High near 72. Chance of precipitation is 90%.

Thursday Night: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm before 2 a.m. Low around 46. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 54.

Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 34.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 56.