PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — From snow to fluctuating temperatures to an expected changeover to freezing rain, it’s these rapidly changing weather conditions that have forecasters and road crews so concerned.
The roads started out wet early this morning, but quickly became snow-covered making for treacherous travel on main roads and side streets alike from Allegheny County to Butler County and beyond.READ MORE: PennDOT, City Of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co. Public Works Crews Preparing For Upcoming Winter Storm
PennDOT says they are keeping close to 80 crews out until the storm is over.
PennDOT officials say they have decided to reduce the speed limit on all interstates to 45 miles per hour as conditions continue to fluctuate.
“We’re going very quickly from wet with freezing conditions to slushy to snow-covered interstates as the bands move through fairly quickly, so the speed limit restrictions helps us out a lot keeping the traffic slowed down,” PennDOT District 11 spokeswoman Lori Musto said.
Allegheny County Public Works crews have 27 trucks out through the remainder of this storm.
“We know there’s going to be a transition in the weather this evening. It’s going to go from snow to rain and there could be icing conditions,” Allegheny County Public Works Director Stephen Shanley said. “We are concerned with that, so we will salt and treat with calcium chloride. Also in the morning, with rush hour, that could be an issue with ice.”
Allegheny County has issued a weather update that reads in part:
“Snow is expected to begin again this afternoon, and forecasts call for an additional half-inch of accumulation with possibly a bit more in the northwest part of the county. The snow is expected to transition to freezing rain before midnight, and the freezing rain is predicted to continue into the morning rush hour. A quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice accumulation is possible.
WATCH: Andy Sheehan provides an update from Beechview
“Public Works will continue to have at least 27 salt trucks out on county roads and bridges until the storm ends tomorrow. We are monitoring the forecasts, and if needed, we will bring in more drivers to ensure complete coverage of our roadways. During the freezing rain, we will be laying down salt covered with liquid calcium chloride to manage the possible ice accumulation.”
Shanley said he also wanted to issue this reminder. It’s very important to slow down in conditions such as these and leave enough space between you and the car or plow driver in front of you.
The T car on the Red Line got temporarily stuck in Beechview on Broadway Avenue due to weather conditions on Monday evening. The icy conditions and inclement weather froze the overhead line.
Port Authority spokesperson Jim Ritchie says when there is freezing rain, overhead lines can get icy, and contact between the line and car is diminished.
— Jessica Guay (@JessicaGuayTV) February 16, 2021
— Jessica Guay (@JessicaGuayTV) February 16, 2021READ MORE: Traffic Restrictions Being Put In Place On Several Major Roadways Due To Winter Weather
— Jessica Guay (@JessicaGuayTV) February 16, 2021
Ritchie said they will run sleet cutters to shave away the ice that builds up throughout the night.
To the north of Pittsburgh, more rain could be on tap. People in Butler County saw a brief bout of sleet, but rain is now falling in the area.
WATCH: Royce Jones has an update on conditions in Butler County
Crews are concerned about the potential of ice coating the roads, electrical wires and tree branches. If there are mass power outages, the county is prepared to open warming shelters and provide generators.
Tom Shuler, the supervisor for the City of Butler Public Works, told KDKA, “They average about 53 miles of residential streets. I think we have about 38 of secondary and alleys.”
In the event that rain washes away the product from the roadways, the department will use an anti-skid mix.
“It’s heavier with the salt and it bonds. It won’t wash away as easily as it does the salt,” said Shuler.
Butler Township manager Tom Knights said there are unique challenges with rain and dropping temperatures.
“It’s all about time and treatment,” he said. “Prolonged freezing rain events, one of the hazards of it is the rain — as it falls — it washes away all of the salt and treatment away. So the crews have to go back over it again.”
Police told KDKA’s Jennifer Borrasso that there have been no major car crashes in the area.
WATCH: Jennifer Borrasso has an update on conditions in Butler County
In Westmoreland County, plow truck operators are hard at work. Bob Kujawa has been behind the wheel of his plow truck for more than 20 hours. He works for Barbish Incorporated, working to keep shopping plazas and other business lots clear of snow and ice.
First Energy says its battle plan is to do what it can overnight and then hit the ground running Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. As of 11:10 p.m., First Energy said more than 1,100 people in the region are without power, including more than 700 in Greene County.
WATCH: Ross Guidotti has an update on conditions in Westmoreland County
PennDOT also wants to remind drivers to be extra careful on the on and off-ramps. Those are always trickier than the interstate.