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Snowstorm 2010 — round two is almost over

| Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

The Fay-West area is under a state of emergency.

Yesterday, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Westmoreland and Fayette counties until 4 a.m. today.

Snow began to fall early yesterday and continued throughout the day, bringing more than six additional inches of accumulation. Fay-West schools announced they would close for a fourth day in a row. Some local stores closed their doors early. The National Guard was welcomed into Fayette and Westmoreland counties to help with cleanup.

PennDOT urged people to stay off the roads unless travel was absolutely necessary and reduced the speed limit to 45 miles per hour on all interstates and expressways statewide. In accordance with having only necessary vehicles on the roadways the Pennsylvania Turnpike and PennDOT posted restrictions for vehicles including Class 9 vehicles, large combination vehicles, tractors hauling empty trailers, trailers pulled by passenger vehicles, motorcycles and recreational vehicles or RVs.

And now, the end may be near — at least for round two.

"The next few days don't look too bad," AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Ulrich said. "It's going to get a little breezy and that will cause snow to blow back out onto the roads, but everything is pretty much over with."

Expected highs for the next few days are in the mid 20s. These are about 10 degrees below normal for this time of year.

"We're going to be seeing some blowing and some drifting and could see gusts of wind up to 30 miles per hour," Ulrich said. "But we will see only a few flurries."

But even as the weather calms, emergency officials offer a word of advice — stay home.

"Stay home and listen to your local radio stations and news stations for updates," Roy Shipley of the Fayette EMA stated. "Keep abreast of what is happening and for updates."

The weather is causing concerns on the roadways and in neighborhoods where there may be a shortage of parking spaces due to the piles of snow.

Even though you may be tempted to grab a garbage can or chair to save a parking spot, don't. You could be fined.

"We really haven't had a lot of that type of problem here," Scottdale Borough Manager Barry Whoric said. "And for that we are thankful. It's illegal."

After shoveling for hours, it may seem that you feel entitled to keep that spot, but you aren't guaranteed that it will remain open and on public streets. Any items placed out can actually be considered to be litter.

"People are not allowed to put things out in the street. Period," said Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Steve Ober. "You could possibly be cited for littering."

Connellsville Councilman Brad Geyer said the city hasn't experienced these types of problems.

"I haven't heard of it and hopefully I won't," said Geyer.

"I haven't seen that situation, not here in Connellsville," said Connellsville Councilwomen Yvonne Rush. "I haven't seen anybody trying to save any type of spots."

"We are asking for people to please be patient with us and if you don't have to go out, don't," Geyer said. "Stay at home. Read a book and try to enjoy this the best you can."

If you do attempt to save a spot by setting out items, don't call police if it gets moved or stolen.

"If someone takes that object that you have set out, don't call us," Ober said. "We will not respond to a call for a removed item that was set out in the street. It is not a theft."

Towns are also experiencing a problem of dumping snow on streets throughout town.

"We are asking people to please not throw shoveled snow back out on to roadways," said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT. "You are just creating more of a problem for the trucks."

"Don't throw snow on the roads," Ober said. "If you do that, then when the snow plow comes through, he's just going to push it all right back over to you and block you back in."

Ofsanik reminded drivers that snow must be removed from vehicles before heading onto the streets.

"Don't clean off your car in the streets because that only adds more to the problem," Mt. Pleasant Mayor Jerry Lucia said. "Use a little common sense."

It is violation of the vehicle code for drivers not to have all automobile windows cleared. Drivers could be fined if police officers feel that they do not have full visibility.

"If we do not feel that you have good visibility and if your windows aren't clean, we can pull you over," Ober said.

And although it is not a law that you clean off the rest of your car, excess snow and ice build up on cars can create hazardous or life-threatening conditions to others on the roadway.

"If snow or ice that is located on your car flies off and hits a vehicle causing them to go off the road and hit a pole or if it hits a pedestrian and causes death or bodily harm, the operator of that vehicle can be fined," Ober said. The fine, referred to as a sliding fine, can be between $200 to $1,000.

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