PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — City of Pittsburgh officials are urging everyone to stay home tonight as a major winter storm closes in on Western Pennsylvania.
A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for much of the area starting at 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday.
Following heavy rains that caused widespread flooding overnight, this winter storm is expected to bring a wintry mix of precipitation. Of all the different weather events moving through the area though, city officials say they are most concerned about the dangerous icy conditions.
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“Today’s going to be a very interesting day,” said Pittsburgh Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa. “We’re expecting freezing rain later on today, and then overnight snow. Right now, we’re very, very fearful of the freezing rain.”
Costa is asking city residents to stay home while the storm hits.
“When we’re dealing with freezing rain, even if you have a four-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive, it’s not the answer for dealing with ice, so be very, very careful,” he says. “Don’t go out tonight, give us an opportunity to get out there and work over the next 24-48 hours depending upon the amounts of snow.”
City officials say they are expecting a 15-hour event that could start around the evening rush hour.
“So, I’m concerned with snow, and not so much rain, but I’m very, very, very concerned about ice,” said Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable. “The forecasts right now are all over the place in terms of when this potential ice could come in. It could be around rush hour, it could be a little after rush hour, but the point is, we’re going to have ice. And that makes everything very dangerous all at once. At least with snow you get traction, you don’t get that with ice.”
Gable says the city has ample supplies of rock salt and liquid calcium chloride.
“Rock salt will be treated with the liquid calcium chloride to make the salt more effective, especially with the icy conditions and the falling temperatures,” he said.
But, Gable says because of the rain in the forecast, road crews can’t do any pre-treating.
“We don’t want to put material down only to have it wash away or move to the curb where it’s not going to be effective,” Gable said.
But they have plenty of extra crews on standby. Additional paramedics and EMTs have been called in by the Public Safety Department, and Public Works has called in the forestry division to take care of trees covered in ice.
Officials are also asking employers to consider sending their employees home early.
“We also want to remind businesses that they may want to look at the forecast and see what time it’s going to hit their particular area, and they may want to look to have some employees leave early,” said Costa. “But we ask folks to just go home and hunker down until [Saturday].”
Also, for anyone headed to Sunday’s Steelers’ playoff game, the Mon Wharf will be closed.