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Big temperature drop, storm expected next week in Western Pennsylvania

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:15 a.m.
Cody Radencic of Irwin enjoys a day of jet skiing on Loyalhanna Lake in Loyalhanna Township on Thursday, October 25, 2012. 
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Cody Radencic of Irwin enjoys a day of jet skiing on Loyalhanna Lake in Loyalhanna Township on Thursday, October 25, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Despite record-breaking highs and sunny skies on Thursday, prepare for scary weather before Halloween.

Frankenstorm — as forecasters and other observers are calling it — could be headed for Pennsylvania.

Hurricane Sandy approaching from the Atlantic Ocean, an early winter storm from the West and a blast of arctic air from the north might collide early next week and send wicked weather as far inland as Ohio, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.

“The implications of the storm, if it tracks the way we think it will, could reach into the millions of dollars,” said Erik Pindrock, an meteorologist.

In Western Pennsylvania, where the high of 82 on Thursday surpassed the record of 80 degrees, snow could fall from a cold front that will stall over the area beginning Saturday, said AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. How much snow remains a question as forecasters look at an array of possibilities.

“The only thing not in the pot is sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks.

In Pittsburgh, wind gusts of 40 mph are possible, said Pydynowski, who expects snowfall to be limited to higher elevations. The winds, though, “are a concern,” he said.

High water and downed trees could block some roads and disrupt air travel.

State transportation officials in Harrisburg will plot storm strategy with PennDOT's 11 regional offices on Friday.

“We get decision-makers on the line to really talk about, ‘OK, what's our strategy? Is this ready? Is that truck ready? Do we have enough salt moved?' ” said PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar.

PennDOT has 2,250 trucks the agency can press into service as snow plows and salt spreaders. But with the storm still days away, it's a little early to move equipment into place, he said.

“While some forecasts bring a hurricane bomb up into central Pennsylvania, other models take it out to sea,” he said.

No specific planning for the storm is under way at Duquesne Light, but officials are watching the forecast.

“We keep in touch with our meteorologist and the companies east of us for mutual assistance. If need be, we may send crews to help,” said Joseph Vallarian, spokesman for Duquesne Light, which has 580,000 customers in Western Pennsylvania.

Forecasters said the probability of Sandy landing the feared “left hook” on the Atlantic seaboard is increasing and that New York and New Jersey could bear the brunt of the storm.

Government forecasters upped the odds of a major weather mess, giving a 90 percent chance that the East will get steady gale-force winds, heavy rain, flooding and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Halloween on Wednesday.

Sandy was a category 2 hurricane with maximum winds of 105 mph, moving north over the Bahamas at 20 mph. Major metropolitan areas within the swath from Norfolk to New York City to Bangor, Maine, could be hit the hardest, according to the weather service.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency urged people to prepare by making sure they have three days of supplies at home and that they know how to reach family members in case of emergency.

With Election Day two weeks away, any significant power outages could impact voting, Pydynowski said. But the chances of that here are slim, he said.

State elections officials in Harrisburg said they were not planning any precautionary warnings or action in anticipation of the storm, for now.

Western Pennsylvania shoppers probably aren't worrying about the storm yet, said Curtis Youngblood, manager of the Giant Eagle store in the North Side.

“More so Sunday,” said Youngblood, 31, of Highland Park.

At least one person was looking forward to snow, but it will mean he has to do some shopping for cold-weather clothing.

“My first winter back in Pittsburgh, so that will be good,” said Jacob Hawk, 21, of Carnegie, who spent the past three years in Arizona. The heaviest thing he owns is a sweatshirt.

Most people enjoying Thursday's weather echoed Kimberly Edwards' sentiments.

“It's such a bummer. You really get used to this nice weather,” said Edwards, 45, of the South Side.

On a day when Greensburg residents were pushing leaves to the edge of streets for the city to collect, David and Mary Ann Klingler of Greensburg were enjoying an afternoon walk at Lynch Field.

“I'm loving it,” she said. “I'm absolutely loving it. That's why we're out walking, taking advantage of the nice weather.”

“Until the storm comes,” her husband added.

The Associated Press and Trib Total Media staff writer Bob Stiles contributed. Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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