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Snow, ice cause wrecks, gridlock across Western Pennsylvania

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 10:58 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Alan Bram of Scott Township shovels snow in Mt. Washington on a snowy Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 26, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Highlands Hose Comp[any firefighter Terry Chambon directs traffic in Tarentum on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 as westbound 366 vehicles headed toward Bull Creek Road and the Route 28 Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
A man walks across Leishman Avenue in Arnold as heavy snow falls on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
People cross a snow-covered Smithfield Street Bridge on the afternoon of Wednesday Dec. 26, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
The Monongahela Incline moves along a snowy track on the afternoon of Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
A woman walks with her dog across the railroad crossing on Ninth Street in New Kensington in the heavy snow on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
A pedestrian walks along West Apple Street in Connellsville on Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Hawk Towing driver John George falls on an icy Murray Avenue in Arnold while hooking up a car that could not stop and ran through a fence into the front yard of a house on Leishman Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. There were no injuries in the accident. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Meghan Bielich, 28, of the South Side, gets the ice off her rear window before venturing onto snowy streets on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An ATV enthusiast rides a quad through a field in Hempfield near Bovard during a snowstorm on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
An Allegheny Valley Fire department vehicle travels on the unplowed northbound lane of Pillow Avenue in Springdale Township on the afternoon of Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. The borough's salt truck was broken down, and the only street department worker quit his job two weeks ago. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Ed Wahl spreads salt in front of Wahls Auto Service, his South Side shop, as the snow falls on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Postal carrier Gary Jasick of Whitehall walks down Carson Street on his South Side route as the snow continues to fall on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Randi Marshak, 51, of the Mexican War Streets walks through the snow to run errands at the bank and the post office on the North Side on Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Ed Kindelberger of Greensburg and with Jupina Landscaping Inc., works to remove snow from the platform at Amtrak's Connellsville Station on Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
A tow tuck driver hooks up an SUV that slid into the hillside due to weather conditions at the corner of Chartiers Avenue and Stueben Street in Pittsburgh's West End, Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Paramedics with Fayette EMS work alongside volunteer firefighters while treating an unidentified man who was involved in a single-vehicle accident on Route 201 North in Dunbar Township shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Volunteer firefighters from D.L. & V, New Haven Hose Company, Dawson, and Connellsville Township worked the scene along with Fayette EMS. Route 201 was shut down for more than an hour while crews worked to free the victim. The unidentified man was transported to Highlands Hospital. The accident was being blamed on slippery road conditions as a major winter storm began its march into Western Pennsylvania. Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Keith Abercrombie, 58, of the North Side clears the snow from the sidewalk for his neighbors on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Parkway West outbound traffic was at a standstill at the Fort Pitt Tunnels late on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Patrick Donovan, 22, of Oakmont shovels his neighbors sidewalks on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Donovan refuses to take money and enjoys helping his neighbors. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Traffic was at a standstill on the Parkway West outbound just north of the Banksville exit, as vehicles were stuck trying to make it up Green Tree hill Wednesday morning, December 26th, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

The first significant snowstorm of the season brought gridlock, wrecks and frustration to Western Pennsylvania roads on Wednesday as businesses closed and crews scrambled to clear ice.

“It's very difficult for trucks to do their jobs thoroughly when you have eight, nine, 10 cars stopped all over the roadway,” said Ross police Sgt. Benjamin Dripps, whose department shut down sections of busy McKnight Road throughout the day and responded to 15 to 20 crashes. “They can't go anywhere, and the trucks can't do their jobs properly.”

The storm dropped about 4.4 inches of snow in Pittsburgh after moving up from the South, where it wreaked havoc on Christmas and prompted a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service for most of Western Pennsylvania. Another inch was possible overnight.

Pittsburgh road crews prepared the night before, officials said, but some primary roads appeared untouched before the afternoon rush — hours after snow started falling.

Dan North, 23, who works in the South Side, said crews plowed East Carson Street, but the roadway remained troublesome in the afternoon.

“The street doesn't look that well-taken care of, but the side streets look a lot worse than Carson,” said North, a graphic design artist with Minuteman Press.

Leaders in Pittsburgh and elsewhere asked for patience.

“The bottom line is this snowfall is affecting the entire region,” city mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said. “Public Works crews are manned up, working overtime and doing the best they can to clear the roads.

“The public needs to remain patient, stay at home and give ... crews a chance to clear their streets,” Doven said.

“The way the storm came through … we couldn't keep up with it,” said Monroeville Public Works Director Mike Adams.

Meteorologists expect scattered snow showers, with little to no accumulation, and a high of 32 degrees on Thursday.

Heavy snowfall in a short period between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday made clearing it tough, officials said.

By 8 p.m., crews had cleared snow from about 90 percent of Pittsburgh's secondary roads and were making a second pass along primary roads, Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said. The department had a full staff manning 60 pieces of equipment, he noted.

Councilman Bill Peduto, a candidate for mayor, said he saw cleared roads in Shadyside, Bloomfield and Oakland but problems about 3:30 p.m. in Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze.

“They haven't been touched,” Peduto said. “I'm on the roads; it's very obvious.”

Peduto said emails and messages on Facebook and Twitter from residents asking about plow progress prompted him to check out streets in his district.

“I think one division has been able to hit all the primary routes while another division is struggling to get to primary streets,” Peduto said. “Whatever it is, it needs to be recognized first and accepted, and then evaluated, and you change what you can.”

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who represents the city's West End, said she received “almost nothing” in complaints from residents.

“If they have questions about the delivery of services, they should question that at the end of the crisis, not in the middle of the crisis,” Kail-Smith said.

The forecast of 3 to 6 inches of snow sent some commuters to Port Authority of Allegheny County, which reported 30-minute delays on buses but few problems on the light-rail system.

“People are making a big deal about this because it's the first snow of the season, but we live in Pittsburgh, and it's December. Of course it's gonna snow,” said Duane Cunningham, 44, who took the T into Downtown for a dental appointment because he did not want to lose his freshly shoveled parking spot outside his Beechview home.

Some complained that Port Authority had not shoveled steep stairways they used to get to stops.

“I would have worn hiking boots if I knew I was going to be climbing up and down a mountain in the snow,” said Sondra Evesham, 71, of Mt. Lebanon.

The weather prompted closure of courthouses, libraries, parks, museums and restaurants. Airlines canceled 80 arriving and departing flights at Pittsburgh International Airport through 2:45 p.m., seventh-most among U.S. airports, according to the flight-tracking website

Chris Manning, a booking agent at Holiday Inn Express on Campbells Run Road in Robinson, said the hotel had more guests because of flight delays and cancellations. He said shuttle bus drivers transporting guests from the airport to the hotel reported poor road conditions.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said crews pretreated major roadways with a brine solution, but the pace at which the snow fell and disabled vehicles made it difficult to clear roads.

“Within a 10-minute span it went from nothing to freezing rain to heavy snow, so we're working with changing weather conditions,” Cowan said.

PennDOT employees on 65 county plow trucks and 15 rental trucks worked 12-hour shifts in Allegheny County, Cowan said.

The weather did not keep shoppers from snagging after-Christmas deals or returning gifts at Westmoreland Mall.

“We still have a pretty good group of shoppers out there,” said mall manager Mike Egan. “I have to assume some people stayed home, but we've got a lot of people here today.”

Margaret Harding and Adam Brandolph are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Staff writers Chuck Biedka, Bob Bauder, Bill Vidonic, Kyle Lawson, Laura Van Wert, Stephanie Hacke, Tom Fontaine, Jeffrey Widmer, Tory N. Parrish, Patrick Varine, John Grupp and Jennifer Reeger contributed to this report.

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