HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell praised the work of his team of public safety agencies in response to the latest battle with Mother Nature.
He urged motorists to continue to exercise caution as the storm cleanup continues.
“Even though the storm has moved on, the commonwealth will continue to support counties with the necessary resources to facilitate snow storm response and recovery,” said Rendell. “I applaud the efforts of local emergency responders and all state agency staff including PennDOT, PA Emergency Management Agency, state police and PA National Guard in handling the many challenges during this difficult storm.
Although there were numerous blockages, PennDOT crews worked continuously to avoid long-term closures on Pennsylvania’s interstates during the storm Friday. By Saturday morning, all the interstates were open. Secondary roads had more accumulated snow and PennDOT crews were at work Saturday to clear those routes.
“Our primary goal was to maintain travel, even in difficult weather circumstances, on the roughly 1,200 miles of interstates in Pennsylvania,” said Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “We kept the interstates moving despite snow accumulations ranging from 5 to 17 inches in various areas of the state and a number of tractor trailer crashes.”
With the improving conditions on the interstates, Pennsylvania restored the normal 65 and 55 mph speed limits as of noon Saturday. During the storm Friday, when speeds had not fallen despite the heavy snows, Pennsylvania ordered the speed limit reduced on all state roads to 45 mph.
PennDOT is advising motorists to drive with extreme caution and beware of blowing and drifting snow. In addition, exercise caution when driving on bridges, ramps and overpasses.
PennDOT is also warning that roads may not be completely free of snow and ice, but are passable and motorists should drive according to conditions.
Across Pennsylvania, PennDOT crews worked with state and local police and emergency responders to deal with storm related challenges. The timing of the heavy snow, during the evening rush hour, complicated the snow removal work.
To ensure help could be quickly dispatched in the event of long term road closures, Rendell postured 328 National Guard members for activation if needed. Throughout the evening, National Guard members provided information about road conditions and assisted motorists.
While the storm stretched across the entire state, the heaviest snowfalls were in north and eastern Pennsylvania.
At one point during the storm, there were two separate tractor-trailer crashes six miles apart on Interstate 78 in the Lehigh Valley. PennDOT, state police, National Guard and local responders reacted quickly and had the interstate cleared within two hours.
In northeastern Pennsylvania, PennDOT’s District 4 based in Lackawanna County, called in members of its paint crews and delivery drivers to help especially in Luzerne County where interstates became icy.
PennDOT also activated message signs along the Interstate 81 corridor alerting truckers that New York State had closed Interstate 84 to commercial traffic. PennDOT also used its variable message board and Highway Advisory Radio to keep motorists informed of changing conditions.
Pennsylvania state troopers reported road conditions to PEMA every two hours providing crucial information needed to direct PennDOT and National Guard resources where needed. In some cases, resources from other areas of the state were redirected to trouble spots.
The State Emergency Operations Center staffing was increased to Level III activation at 8 p.m. Thursday, the day before the storm. Local county emergency management, fire police and local police also worked round the clock clearing numerous crashes.
According to Rendell, there will be internal after action review of all state actions and procedures taken during the response. This review will serve as an aid in terms of what actions were executed correctly as well as areas for improvement.
Biehler thanked state and local police, municipalities and emergency responders for their assistance during the storm. “Our local partners are crucial to helping us meet travelers’ needs during such difficult circumstances,” Biehler said.
For all state roads, motorists are reminded that they can call 800-VISIT-PA for updated road conditions. Callers can also call PennDOT’s Interstate Road Condition Hotline at 888-783-6783 or (717) 783-5186 for out-of-state callers for interstate conditions.