PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The ice and snow haven’t started yet, but the wintery mix is heading this way.

“Freezing rain means when the rain hits the ground it freezes, and the ground as you know is so cold from the temperatures so again, it’s very very difficult for everyone to deal with freezing rain,” said Pittsburgh Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa.

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PennDOT crews have been out most of Friday evening, pre-treating the roads with brine, a salt mixture used in colder temperatures. The approach is if you can keep some of the snow and ice from sticking initially, it will be easier to deal with as conditions get worse.

“We’re pre-treating now. We’ll be salting as the snow starts to come down, we’ll be watching bridge decks and elevated areas that start to freeze first,” explained PennDOT District Executive of Maintenance Angelo Pampena said.

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Both PennDOT and the city say they will be running crews around the clock until the roadways are clear, which is expected by mid-morning or early afternoon Saturday when the temps warm up. The city alone is expecting to have 50-60 trucks on the road.

But if you don’t have to go out early Saturday morning – don’t. That allows crews to get their work down. Ice or freezing rain isn’t much harder for crews to address than snow.

“You’re dealing with ice you have to have chains on your vehicles. You need to go slow there are some streets where you have to use salt as you back up. So yes we have to treat ice much differently than you do snow,” Costa said.

“If you can wait, then wait. Until the temperatures get above freezing. That may be 10 a.m. or noon to give yourself extra time,” Pampena said.

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Some people are planning for the possibility of power outages that could come with ice predicted from a storm moving into the Pittsburgh area.

Garry Faust, assistant manager at the Lowe’s at Pittsburgh Mills, says ice melters like calcium chloride have been selling.

With ice anticipated, he recommends putting some out on your sidewalk or driveway tonight before bed.

“It’s going to continue to work and once that precipitation hits it’s going to start doing its work,” said Faust. “It’s going to start melting up the ice.”

Of course, generators and flash lights are great to have if the power goes out, but Faust says people Friday were buying space heaters some of which don’t need electricity.

“This is actually a dual fuel,” he said as he pointed to a large heater. “It can run off of liquid propane or natural gas.”

Giant Eagle at the Waterworks was busier than a normal Friday.An obligatory check of the bread and milk aisles found people buying, but the supplies were fine.
Most of the shoppers we talked with had heard the ice is coming and plan on staying home Saturday morning.

Dorothy Perrett of Harmar said she’ll be making cookies: “I’m going to stay home and not go out as long as it’s icy.”

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People are advised to charge cell phones before the power is in jeopardy. Also, make sure your flashlights have new batteries. And if you get water from a well with an electric pump, put some water in containers to have on stand by just in case.

David Highfield