EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — As winter approaches, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a reminder to drivers to be cautions of snow squalls, as PennDOT plans to implement temporary speed limits to keep drivers safe.

The National Weather Service defines a snow squall as “a brief but intense period of heavy snow (up to 2 inches in 30 minutes), strong winds (30+ mph), and whiteout conditions (visibility less than ¼ mile).”

They say snow squalls often occur on otherwise partly cloudy days, and that they can appear so suddenly it catches drives off guard.

“One of the things that makes snow squalls so dangerous is their tendency to produce icy roadways, or what we call a flash freeze. Because they come on so suddenly, snow squalls can catch drivers off guard and lead to major transportation incidents, including deadly multi-vehicle accidents,” explained NWS Meteorologist John Banghoff.

In preparation for snow squall season, PennDOT will utilize variant speed limit (VSL) signs to remind drivers to slow down when visibility or roadway conditions require slower speeds.

There will be VSL signs at 63 locations, including:

  • 21 locations along I-80 in Clearfield (mile marker (MM) 100-133) and Clinton (MM 182-193) counties.
  • Six locations on I-80 in Clarion and Jefferson counties on the approaches to Emlenton Bridge (MM 42-45), North Fork Bridge (MM 78-81), and Kyle Lake Bridge (MM 92-95).
  • 36 locations along I-81 from I-78 to I-80 in Lebanon (five locations), Luzerne (seven locations), and Schuylkill (24 locations) counties.

VSL signs will be active in these locations until April, covering up the permanent speed limit. When speeds need to be reduced, yellow lights will flash on the VSL signs to alert drivers of the need to slow down.

The VSL sign program was active earlier this year in 12 locations along I-80 in Clearfield County. Preliminary research shows that they effectively slowed traffic and reduced the number of crashes.

To check roadway conditions, visit 511PA.