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Multi-vehicle pileup sparks snow squall safety

Interstate 81 was shut down in part of our area over the weekend for hours after a 50 vehicle crash. Police and PennDOT officials say that squall is to blame.

MCADOO, Pa. — It can change roads conditions in an instant.

"It happens so quick, and most times it's got to do with the wind, but visibility goes where you might be able to see four or five football fields and then nothing," said Billy Hensley, Truck Driver.

Snow squalls can be dangerous. We saw that first hand this past weekend.

A pileup shut down part of Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County near McAdoo on Saturday.

It was the result of five separate crashes, according to state police.

Emergency responders say about 50 vehicles in all were involved, and minor injuries were reported.

"We were fortunate in this case there were no fatalities, and we are very thankful for that. But, when you get snow squall warnings for conditions that are conducive to snow squalls, we want people to take that very seriously. You can go from now being nice and sunny and ten minutes from now total whiteout conditions where you cannot see ten feet in front of your vehicle, and that can be very dangerous when you are on a high-speed roadway or an interstate," said Ron Young, PennDOT Spokesperson.

A snow squall is a sudden, heavy snowfall with blowing snow and strong, gusty winds. It causes whiteout conditions similar to a blizzard but is localized in time and/or location.

It also doesn't leave much snow behind once all is said and done.

Bill Buck is a truck driver. He says squalls are dangerous for all drivers, including those behind the wheel of a big rig.

"It can make things extremely difficult. We have to continually think about what we are going to impact, who is on the road with us, who is behind us, who is in front of us. Will we be able to see them? Will we be able to stop," said Bill Buck, Truck Driver.

PennDOT officials say if you find yourself on the road in a snow squall, try to pull off and wait it out if there's an exit nearby.  

If you get stuck, put on your headlights and hazard lights. Make sure your defrosters and wipers are on, too. Stay alert, and don't try to switch lanes.

"If you can avoid traveling when there is a winter or storm event, then avoid it. If you can't, then follow all of those safety protocols," said Young.

Your smartphone may also go off with an emergency warning.  

Young says heed those warnings. The alerts can sometimes buy drivers a few minutes to find an exit and get off the road.

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