Predicted winter storm brings snow to Western Pennsylvania
By Bill Vidonic and Tony LaRussa
Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 12:06 p.m.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Vidonic can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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