PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – First, there was the weekend snowfall, then the rain, followed by temperatures taking a nose dive, and now the cold and ice.

Western Pennsylvania is not getting much of a respite from the winter weather. On Monday night, the United Church of Christ downtown, opened its doors to the homeless.

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KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports:

Michael McIntyre, of “Operation Safety Net” says there may be as many as 120 men housed at the shelter during this cold snap.

In Pittsburgh’s Sugartop neighborhood, the end of Finland Street was ice covered Monday afternoon.

Neighbors complained that they’ve repeatedly called the city’s 311 hotline, but can’t get a straight answer.

Lloyd Barnett says he missed three days of work last week because Finland Street in front of his home was so icy.

And late Monday night, a water main break quickly iced up Rialto Street on the North Side. Police were forced to close the street down from Route 28 to Tours Street.

Several school districts decided to close Monday. Officials, like those at Freeport School District, say it’s not an easy decision to make, but they had to consider the potential for dangerous conditions throughout the day.

KDKA’s Heather Abraham Reports:

It can’t even be considered a snow day.

“It’s really more of an ice day,” said Todd O’Shell with the Freeport School District.

After snow changed to rain, the sidewalks and the roadways became wet. Whipping winds made it easy to feel the temperature drop. So by 7 a.m. Monday morning, several schools in Butler County, like Freeport, made the decision to change from a two-hour delay, to closed for the day.

“More a safety precaution than anything,” O’Shell said. “Concerned about driveways, sidewalks, the areas where students are getting on the bus were very iced up this morning.”

PennDOT officials also say it’s not always easy to tell what the day will be like.

“Probably doing that just to be prudent and I don’t blame them,” said Bob Skrak, Butler County Manager for PennDOT.  “It could be good the rest of the day and if the temperatures really drop down and we get more of this rain, it could be really bad.”

It wasn’t just icy sidewalks and roads that were the concern – even the bus parking lots were iced over early Monday morning after the rain showers. The buses thankfully were not needed after the decision was made to close some schools.

Children in the area, meanwhile, relished in their new found freedom, enjoying the day off.

But the Freeport School District spokesperson says it was not an easy decision to make. They also conferred with several other districts, like South Butler and Mars, before all calling a snow day.

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“We talk to the bus garages,” said O’Shell. “We talk to the municipalities, we talk to PennDOT. Any information we can gain and glean to make sure we make the best decision for the safety of the students.”

Freeport school officials say they’ve already had a number of two-hour delays due to the timing of some of the snow storms and this also marks their third snow day.

They say they’ll make them up during Easter break.

Meanwhile, the icy streets contributed to accidents and left homeowners scrambling to remove the hazards on sidewalks and driveways.

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:

“My driveway is a sheet of ice, but my sidewalk’s pretty good,” said Lisa Ernst, of Bethel Park.

With these temperatures, Andy Amrhein, of Evey’s True Value Hardware in Bethel Park, says leave the rock salt in the bag.

“You’re main two products are going to be magnesium or calcium,” he said. “They are both going to attack the ice; only you’ll need a little more of the magnesium than the calcium.”

Both the magnesium chloride and calcium chloride will burn down through the ice, no matter the thickness.

“The rain fell off the roof last night and froze on the driveway, so now a lot of ice. A lot of ice,” said Bill Campbell, of Bethel Park.

But critical to whatever you use, is removing the ice once the chemicals have weakened it.

“Cause, if not, after the chemical has worked out, it’s going to refreeze on you,” says Amrhein.

Amrhein joined “The KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway to talk about what kind of salt is best for cold temperatures.

While many people are having a hard time finding salt or keeping it in stock, Amrhein says he was prepared and has the three main types of ice melter in stock.

He said that calcium chloride is best, followed by magnesium chloride and then rock salt. He added that while calcium chloride runs for almost $30 a bag, it is 4 times more effective than rock salt that runs for around $8 a bag. Magnesium chloride runs about 18 to 20 dollars a bag.

He said that even if you use calcium or magnesium chloride on ice, you still have to do some work.

“It’ll start eating through the chunks of ice. But after, you should take an ice chipper or something to chip away at it and then shovel the ice off the driveway,” he said.

He said the ice melting chemicals wear off and then, “freezes back up again and you’ll be no better off than when you put the product on.”

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Heather Abraham