The weather alert warning of a snow squall and the potential for icy roads in parts of Cumberland, Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties went out around 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, leaving more than a few smart phone owners wondering what the buzz was about.

Mainers can expect more of these targeted alerts this winter as the result of a recent agreement with cellphone carriers that allows snow squall warnings to be transmitted to cellphones, according to the National Weather Service Office in Gray.

Hunter Tubbs, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the messages are aimed at motorists traveling in a specific region who may not be aware that a snow squall is about to impact their driving.

“It’s just a new way to get the message out to people,” Tubbs said of the alerts.

Squalls, depending on their intensity, can significantly reduce visibility. A snow squall is defined as an intense, short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that can quickly reduce visibility and produce strong wind gusts.

Wednesday’s alert proved accurate, as a snow squall line formed around 6 p.m. between Freeport and Topsham and spread across the area that included Brunswick, Harpswell, Woolwich, Boothbay, Phippsburg, Georgetown and Wiscasset. The National Weather Service said visibility dropped quickly to less than a quarter mile.

In December 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that snow squall warnings from the National Weather Service were available nationwide. They are intended as a way to reduce vehicle crashes and fatalities.




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