Heavy Snow Expected to Affect Travel in Northwestern PA

Heavy snow and strong wind gusts forecasted in northwest Pennsylvania and along the Allegheny ridges in southwestern Pennsylvania have the potential to cause dangerous travel conditions tonight through Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf today advised that state agencies are prepared and providing preparation tips for residents and travelers.

“As always, safety is first,” Wolf said. “Residents and travelers to northwest Pennsylvania need to be prepared for hazardous conditions.

“Heavy lake-effect snow and gusty winds could bring potentially dangerous travel conditions to parts of northwest PA and along the ridgetops of the western Allegheny mountains.

“Motorists should monitor conditions closely and be alert for rapidly changing conditions.”

Lake-effect snow is unique in that it has a large supply of moisture from Lake Erie to “feed” it. Accompanying that are often drastic temperature differences between the lake water and the air moving over it, which can lead to powerful bands of snow.

Strong, gusty wind can add to the hazards, reducing visibility to near zero and forcing snow to drift over roadways.

“We are in close contact with county emergency management teams to ensure each has what it needs to help locally,” said Rick Flinn, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

“The teams in the northwest are well-versed in winter weather and lake-effect snow and are prepared for this storm to minimize travel delays and maximize safety for all residents and travelers.”

Motorists are advised to avoid traveling during winter storms if possible, but motorists who must
be on the road are urged to use caution while driving.

“Our teams are ready for the storm, but motorists are critical partners in our mission in the winter,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said.

“We urge drivers to delay unnecessary travel in winter weather, and if you must travel, please slow down and give plow operators plenty of room.”

PEMA, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police offer these winter weather driving tips:

  • Monitor weather forecasts and 511PA.com, PennDOT’s 24-hour, seven days-a-week travel information center.
  • Slow down while driving when snow is falling and always wear a seatbelt.
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicles you are following.
  • Stay alert, keep looking as far ahead as possible and be patient. Reduce in-vehicle distractions in order to give driving your full attention.
  • Use your vehicle’s defroster and wipers. Keep windows and mirrors free of snow and ice.
  • During squalls or whiteouts, do not stop on the roadway. Come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible or when there is a safe area to do so.
  • After you are stopped safely off the roadway, turn on your four-way flashers and stay with your vehicle.

PennDOT is prepared for the expected winter weather, with plow trucks and other equipment ready. Salt, anti-skid and other materials are in good supply.

Roads will be monitored as the weather is expected to change from rain to snow later today. Crews will be working around the clock, if necessary, to keep roads safe and passable.  But motorists should remember that squalls happen suddenly and can severely limit visibility.

Motorists are reminded that roadways will not be free of snow while precipitation is falling. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may be icy and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.

Motorists should leave plenty of space – six car lengths – when following a truck that is plowing or spreading winter materials.

While PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com.

511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras.

Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA Web site.

PennDOT reminds motorists to pack an emergency kit for their vehicles. A basic kit should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel, and warm clothes. When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should consider special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.

PennDOT and PEMA also remind citizens that downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, are available at Ready.PA.gov.

For more information on winter driving and PennDOT operations, visit www.penndot.gov/winter.

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