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Predicted winter storm brings snow to Western Pennsylvania

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 12:06 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Sean Bligen, 21 of Oak Hill walks across the Birmingham Bridge to visit a friend in the South Side Friday, January 25, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Heavy traffic delays heading West on 376 (inbound) in the snow on Friday, January 25, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Bob Goodman of Squirrel Hill walks up Brown Hill Road after leaving his car which was caught in the traffic snarl on the Homestead Grays Bridge on Friday January 25, 2013. Two tractor trailers stuck in the snow caused the 2-3 hour delay. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Heavy traffic delays heading West on 376 (inbound) in the snow on Friday, January 25, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Vehicles cautiously navigate Interstate 279 during a blinding, rapid snowfall on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
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
One person suffered injuries when a driver lost control and slid off the pavement near the merger of Interstates 79 and 279 in Franklin Park on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, at 10:25 a.m. Bill Vidonic | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Snow begins to fall on Wood Street, Downtown, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Ice begins to form on the Allegheny River as snow begins to fall on Pittsburgh and the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Snow begins to fall on the Roberto Clemente Bridge, Downtown, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Snow begins to fall on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Snow began falling mid-morning along Grant Street in the Downtown are on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Snow began falling mid-morning in the Downtown area on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
SungHwan Kim, 30 of Highland Park, a PhD student studying biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh, walks to work in Oakland on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Parking Enforcement Officer Dorothy Juracko, of North Side, brushes off a parking kiosk Downtown as part of her snowy day tasks while pedestrians shuffle past her on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Traffic moves slowly around a bend on the onramp merging on to 376 West (inbound) in snowy conditions on Friday, January 25, 2013. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
The snow storm which hit the region causes stuck tractor trailers to create a 2-3 hour traffic back up on the Homestead Grays Bridge on Friday January 25, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The snow storm which hit the region causes stuck tractor trailers to create a 2-3 hour traffic back up on the Homestead Grays Bridge on Friday January 25, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The snow storm which hit the region causes stuck tractor trailers to create a 2-3 hour traffic back up on the Homestead Grays Bridge on Friday January 25, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Hyundai of Greensburg sales consultant Bill Shine (right) and Gary Dietz of Greensburg walk through the snow-covered lot Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, at the Hempfield dealership. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Chris Kita of Everson clears his sidewalk along Painter Street, while snow falls on Friday, January 25, 2013. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Pittsburgh firefighters secure the scene of an accident where a truck slid off the road exiting the Glenwood Bridge, Friday, January 25, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

A little bit of snow in the region caused a lot of headaches on Friday.

The 3 to 4 inches of snow that fell caused havoc on roadways, with lengthy traffic jams that lasted for hours and scores of skidding accidents reported.

“The snowfall we had is very typical for this time of year,” said meteorologist Brad Rehak of the National Weather Service in Moon. “But almost all of it fell between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, which is about the worst time and day for that to happen.”

An additional “dusting” of snow was expected overnight, with up to 1 inch more possible north of Pittsburgh, Rehak said.

The inopportune timing of the storm resulted in a nearly nonstop stream of complaints posted for several hours on Facebook and Twitter from people irked that some streets and highways had not been salted or cleared in time for the afternoon rush hour.

One of the posters, Jennifer Davis of South Fayette, told the Tribune-Review that road crews should have had enough time to better deal with the problem.

“I can't understand when the snow occurred between two rush hours, why it couldn't be cleared?” said Davis, 39, who said a several-block drive from Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side to the West End Bridge took more than an hour.

Most of the main highways were jammed with slow-moving traffic or vehicles that were stopped because of wrecks.

The gridlock was compounded by a number of multivehicle wrecks and several vehicles that had overturned, according to authorities. A tractor-trailer that jackknifed along Route 28 in Armstrong County around 2:30 p.m. shut the roadway down for two hours.

A PennDOT salt truck was damaged when its raised bed passed under the Hite Road bridge at the Cheswick/Springdale exit of Route 28 and hit the overpass, said Steve Cowan, a PennDOT spokesman. The overpass was not damaged and the driver was not injured.

Adding to the problem of driving across the slick coating of snow that fell on already frozen road surfaces was the additional traffic created when businesses let employees out of work early during the storm.

Hundreds of schools statewide dismissed classes early, and a judge in Pittsburgh sent jurors home.

Allegheny County emergency dispatchers received numerous reports from paramedics and police patrol units that were stuck on icy roads throughout the city.

Rob Kaczorowski, who heads Pittsburgh's department of public works, said the city's full complement of 60 snow removal vehicles were deployed and would continue working through the night to make roadways passable.

“We've got most of the main routes cleared and have started going back and touching them up,” he said about 4:40 p.m. “Once we're done with that, we'll be hitting the secondary streets.”

Because the temperature averaged around 15 degrees through much of the afternoon — too low for salt to effectively melt snow and ice — the salt that was spread was treated with a calcium chloride spray that works down to minus 25 degrees, Kaczorowski said.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar characterized the snow as a “widespread storm, impacting the entire state” and said the transportation agency had 2,200 trucks available to fight the weather, adding that salt and anti-skid material were in good supply.

The speed limit along portions of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was reduced to 45 mph for a time and state police reported crashes.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County reported delays during the afternoon rush hour of between 60 and 90 minutes along some routes. There were no problems or delays reported for the light-rail system.

Philadelphia International Airport experienced average flight delays of nearly two hours in the evening. However, snow removal on the runways at Pittsburgh International Airport “went smoothly” and a few relatively short delays were experienced, said Jeff Martinelli, an airport spokesman.

Tony LaRussa and Bill Vidonic are staff writers for Trib Total Media. LaRussa can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com. Vidonic can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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