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Quick-falling snow makes for slick conditions

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 1:02 a.m.
Emergency responders tend to a two-vehicle accident on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, shortly before 11 a.m. in the 400 block of Center Street in Versailles. A Jeep SUV slid down the hill, bounced off the hillside, rolled over on its roof and collided with a another vehicle traveling down the road, Versailles police Chief Bill Kruczek said. The male driver of the Jeep was transported by Elizabeth Township Area EMS to UPMC McKeesport and the female driver of the other vehicle declined medical attention at the scene. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

Snow falling at times on Friday at the rate of an inch an hour triggered numerous accidents, most of them minor.

It also curtailed many activities in the Mon-Yough area.

AccuWeather said the area was in the path of a storm that rolled from the Midwest and interior South toward much of the mid-Atlantic region.

Snow was forecast to continue through the day on Saturday, with a break on Sunday before another round of ice and snow beginning in the pre-dawn hours on Monday.

Shortly after the onset of Friday's snow, Versailles police were called to respond to a two-vehicle crash in the 400 block of Center Street.

“The gentleman was coming down the hill and started sliding,” police Chief Bill Kruczek said. “He bounced off the hillside and rolled over into another vehicle.”

The man driving the Jeep was transported by Elizabeth Township Area EMS to UPMC McKeesport. The woman driving the other vehicle declined medical attention at the scene.

Two tractor-trailers became disabled on Browns Hill Road, across the Homestead Grays Bridge from the Waterfront.

As a result, traffic was tied up for a time on both Pittsburgh and Homestead sides of that bridge.

As one motorist posted on Facebook after traveling home to the South Allegheny area, “A day like today shows you who can drive, who is prepared, and who has good tires.”

School districts throughout the Mon-Yough area canceled nighttime activities.

Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Bart Rocco said the high school dismissed its students about 20 minutes early to allow extra time for bus drivers to do their runs and keep on schedule with their middle and elementary school runs.

“When the storm hits during the day,” Rocco said, “it impacts us a bit.”

Forward Township police Chief Mark Holtzman said his officers handled a few minor crashes, including one on the bridge into Monongahela. At least one disabled vehicle was reported along Rainbow Run Road.

PennDOT officials urged caution as the storm moved across Western Pennsylvania.

A PennDOT District 11 spokesman said crews prepared for the storm by pre-treating roadways, mounting plows on trucks, repairing mechanical needs, and ensuring adequate supplies of salt, anti-skid and other materials were on hand.

Anti-skid materials proved valuable as temperatures hovered below levels where salt is effective, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Palko.

Temperatures are forecast to rise into the upper 20s today and return to the freezing mark by Monday.

Clairton fire Chief John Lattanzi urged residents and motorists to have patience as public works crews clear roads in his city.

“You can't get them all at one time,” Lattanzi said on Friday afternoon. “It takes time. The full crew's out and they'll continue to go.”

Irwin public works director James Halfhill had three crews out and two on standby.

“We have our roads open nice,” Halfhill said. “It's sloppy though. We're treating the roads. It looks good out here. We have enough salt to last four days straight running. We're in good shape.”

North Huntingdon Township public works director Richard Albert said 14 trucks were out and crews were ready to work throughout the night.

“We're trying to keep up on things,” Albert said. “We were prepared. Things did get away from us a little bit. I'm sure that's how it is in most communities.”

Albert said his crews handle about 175 miles of road and approximately 800 streets.

“We have a pretty good supply of salt on hand and liquid brine,” the North Huntingdon public works director said.

PennDOT reminded motorists of laws that kick in with inclement weather.

If windshield wipers are on, headlights should be, too.

If snow or ice falls from a vehicle and strikes another causing a crash or injury, the driver will be held liable and cited.

The law also requires motorists to clear snow and ice from windows before driving.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or Tribune-Review News Service and staff writers Michael DiVittorio, Stacy Lee, Eric Slagle and Jennifer R. Vertullo contributed to this story.

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