Looming Winter Storm Has State & Local Officials Preparing For The Worst

Gov. Wolf Signs Disaster Emergency Proclamation

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — It may be the middle of March, but winter is not quite over yet.

A massive storm that is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on the eastern side of our state and other areas will be blanketing parts of western Pennsylvania in white, too.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning through 8 p.m. Wednesday for Forest, Mercer, Venango, the ridges in Fayette and Westmoreland counties, the ridges of eastern Monongalia and Preston counties in West Virginia; and Garrett County, Maryland. Snow in those areas was forecasted to taper off around noon Tuesday, but return with heavier snow showers in the late afternoon.

Also, a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for Lawrence County through 11 p.m. Tuesday evening.

snow totals 2 31317 Looming Winter Storm Has State & Local Officials Preparing For The Worst

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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A Winter Storm Warning issued for Indiana, Clarion and Jefferson counties was canceld at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.

A Winter Weather Advisory issued for Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties was canceled early Tuesday morning.

KDKA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla said conditions may not be as bad as first thought in the Pittsburgh area.

“I do have a bit of good news, watching some of the developments over the course of the evening, [Tuesday] morning’s commute may not be as bad as originally projected,” he said.

That’s because “we’ve had a hard time pulling in moisture to overcome some of the dry air.”

Verszyla said, “I would expect overnight tonight, locally, an inch or less; in the Laurel Highlands, 2-3 inches. Now, through the day [Tuesday], we’ll see occasional snow showers. Over the course of the entire day, 1-3 inches and into [Tuesday] evening, and then brisk and cold through Wednesday.”

Road crews weren’t taking any chances. The City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works issued a Level 2 Snow Alert, which went into effect at noon.

As a result, as many as 60 vehicles will be out from 10 p.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Tuesday to treat roads in the city. Then, a minimum of 80 trucks will be out from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Crews will be working 12-hour shifts throughout the storm.

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:

PennDOT crews all across the state spent the day getting trucks loaded and plows attached. They’ll be on the roads when the snow is falling.

“We have all our trucks, they will be manned spreading material throughout the county,” said PennDOT Butler County Manager Mike Mattis. “These guys are going to be working 12 hours or more to treat this storm.”

State officials are also preparing for the incoming storm. Gov. Tom Wolf, on Monday afternoon, issued a “proclamation of disaster.”

It allows the Department of Transportation and Turnpike Commission to restrict speeds on highways. Restrictions went into place at 10 p.m. on all interstates and expressways east of Interstate 99 and including Interstate 99:

  • 45 mph speed limit
  • Ban on tandem truck trailers, empty trailers, towed trailers, buses, recreational vehicles and motorcycles.

These restrictions are in place on Interstates 70, 76, 78, 80, 81, 83, 84, 283, 176, 180, 476, 380 and all expressways not on the interstate system. The Turnpike will have the same restrictions beginning at 10 p.m.

The governor says he is also deploying the National Guard, along with more than 2,000 snow plows.

According to the airline-tracking website FlightAware, more than 5,000 Tuesday flights have been canceled. Amtrak also has canceled and modified service up and down the Northeast Corridor. More than a dozen departing flights out of Pittsburgh International Airport were canceled.

Amtrak has canceled and modified service up and down the Northeast Corridor. Service between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. was suspended for Tuesday.

Over in Philadelphia, all schools have cancelled classes for Tuesday. And back here in Pittsburgh, delays and closings are pouring in.

School superintendents will be closely watching the road crews work. They’ve become hesitant to call delays or closings in advance.

“We wait for the situation to present itself in the morning,” said Dr. William Pettigrew, the superintendent of Butler Area Schools. “Oftentimes, it’s very unpredictable. It may be an hour late or two hours. Sometimes we’ve been warned about storms and we didn’t get them at all.”

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium will definitely be closed on Tuesday because of the weather. Zoo officials say they will reopen on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Ahead of the snow, people were out Monday stocking up on supplies. They were getting the usual essentials like bread and milk, as well as snow supplies like shovels and salt.

Blake Kirberg, of Beechview, told KDKA what he bought at Kuhn’s Market on Banksville Road.

“Just some paper towels and some more food around the house in case I get stuck,” said Kirberg. “Got some snacks, some oranges, some yogurt, stuff like that.”

“This is my normal go-to-the-supermarket day. I laugh at the Pittsburghers. I put on Facebook to my son today, ‘Uh oh, bread, milk and toilet paper,” said Kay Yot, of Beechview.

KDKA’s Julie Grant Reports:

Once the kitchen cupboards and fridge are stocked, it’s time to think about the driveway and sidewalks.

“There are people that didn’t pick up ice melter that thought they were done for the season. You definitely don’t want to be out of it. It’s easier to pick it up tonight than tomorrow,” said Brett Satterfield, the manager at Rollier’s Hardware in Mount Lebanon.

Ben Litman, of Mount Lebanon, said, “We have some salt at home, but you never know if its going to be enough, so I bought more.”

“We are icing the walks tonight before we go to bed for the snow that’s scheduled,” Tracy Dunglinson, also of Mount Lebanon, said.

But Dunglinson’s kids were just hoping for a snow day.

The hardest hit parts of our area are expected to be the ridges and higher elevations in Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

KDKA’s Ross Guidotti Reports:

“We have 197 plow trucks that will be servicing and out on the roadways during this event,” said Jay Ofsanik, of PennDOT District 12, which services those areas.

Salt, brine, scrape, whatever it takes. PennDOT crews will be 12 on and 12 off in those areas until the job is done.

“In our area we have 3,000 miles of road,” Ofsanik said. “Now that translates into somewhere like 7,000 to 8,000 lane miles.”

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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