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Winter storm bears down on Western Pennsylvania

Matthew Santoni
| Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 4:42 p.m.
A PennDOT truck clears snow from the shoulder on Rt. 30 West, in Unity Twp, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A PennDOT truck clears snow from the shoulder on Rt. 30 West, in Unity Twp, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018.
Genenarl Manager of Greensburg Auto Spa, Chris Kane, finishes up drying a car fresh out of the wash as lines increase on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Michael Swensen | Tribune-Review
Genenarl Manager of Greensburg Auto Spa, Chris Kane, finishes up drying a car fresh out of the wash as lines increase on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Genenarl Manager of Greensburg Auto Spa, Chris Kane, directs cars into spots to be dried off as lines increase on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Michael Swensen | Tribune-Review
Genenarl Manager of Greensburg Auto Spa, Chris Kane, directs cars into spots to be dried off as lines increase on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Charles Craig(left), 37, of Greensburg, dries off a car after passing through the car wash at Greensburg Auto Spa on Thursday, January 11, 2017.
Michael Swensen | Tribune-Review
Charles Craig(left), 37, of Greensburg, dries off a car after passing through the car wash at Greensburg Auto Spa on Thursday, January 11, 2017.

It may be hard to believe as western Pennsylvania residents strolled around in shorts Thursday afternoon, but the National Weather Service says the area has been upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning starting at 4 p.m. Friday, with forecasts of a heavy mix of snow and ice.

Rain was already starting Thursday afternoon in parts of the Pittsburgh forecast area, which was part of why the National Weather Service's office in Moon had issued a flood watch for Thursday through Saturday, said meteorologist Tim Axford.

There may be a break in the rain during the day Friday, but falling temperatures likely will start turning it to freezing rain and sleet in a wave, starting west of Allegheny County around 5 or 6 p.m. and reaching the rest of the Pittsburgh area by 6 or 7 p.m., Axford said.

The weather service was predicting the ice and snow could make travel very hazardous or impossible. Axford said one- to two-tenths of an inch of ice could accumulate.

By 9 p.m., the freezing rain and sleet are expected to turn to snow, with a total accumulation of 3 to 6 inches. The heavier amounts will fall to the west, with a "sharp cut-off" across Westmoreland County meaning that the mountains to the east will get less snow than the western parts of the county.

"It's certainly different than usual," Axford said.

The snow is expected to taper off Saturday, though a return to cold temperatures is predicted to last well into next week.

City of Pittsburgh officials said emergency vehicles were being prepped with chains, salt and plows were at the ready and employers were being urged to consider letting workers go home early Friday to avoid any freezing rain during rush hour .

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or on Twitter @msantoni.

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