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March snowstorm shuts schools, briefly clogs roads

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 6:33 a.m.
Eight-year-old Jarrett Cohm ( left) makes a snowman with his brother, Dylan Cohn, 6, in Squirrel Hill. Heavy snow overnight led to school cancellations in the area. Photo taken March 6, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A driver lost control of her car on a curve along Lesnett Road in Upper St. Clair near the post office on Wednesday morning, March 6th, 2013. The car went through a metal fence and ended up in a creek bed, where a metal pipe was removed from the vehicle. According to police, the pipe narrowly missed piercing the driver, who was lucky enough to walk away from the accident. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Groundskeeper Kim White salts a set of steps on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg on March 6, 2013.
Chrissy Statler pulls her husband, Dan, with their horse d'Artagnan at the Canterbrook Stables and Equestrian Center in Unity Township on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The sport is known as Skijoring. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
(From left) Dawn Rates of Mt. Pleasant enjoys the morning by sled riding with her daughters, Grace Summers and Haley Rates of Greensburg, and granddaughter Taylor Summers, 3, at St. Clair Park in Greensburg on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Julie Graczyk-Heister works to clear the sidewalk on Carlisle Street in Harrison on Wednesday morning, March 6, 2013. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Ron DiMaria, an Arnold public works employee, shovels snow from the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue on Wednesday morning, March 6, 2013. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Vionno Pugliese, 7, puts the finishing touches on his snow bunny in front of his Harrison home on Freeport Road on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Charlie Farrah works his way down the snow-covered sidewalk in Stanton Heights on Wednesday March 5, 2013. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Municipal Water Authority of New Kensington employees Willie Thrower, left, and Bob Polas use a shovel and snow blower to clean the long sidewalks along the reservoir property on Freeport Road on Wednesday morning, March 6, 2013. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Jasmine Goldband
Ducks sit along the bank of 'little' Lake Elizabeth as snow falls in West Commons Park on the North Side Wednesday morning. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
A worker removes snow around the National Aviary on the North Side Wednesday morning. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Frosty the Snowman made an appearance along College Avenue in Mt. Pleasant after snow blanketed the borough in a photograph taken Wednesday, March 6, 2013.
Snow sticks to a tree near Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Custodian Brooklyn Davis clears the steps of the Carnegie Library on Mount Washington on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. James Knox | Tribune-Review
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
David Shlapak clears a layer of wet snow off his car on Palo Alto Street in the Allegheny City Central section of Pittsburgh, March 6, 2013. Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
Snow covers the statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton at the entrance of Seton Hill University in Greensburg, creating the illusion that she is wearing an icy shawl and hat on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Tongji Zhang, 8, chases Zhongli Wang, 43, (both of Squirrel Hill) in Schenley Park after heavy snow overnight led to school cancellations in the area. Photo taken March 6, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The snow blanketed a swath of property in Marshall on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
'I love the snow. Especially a wet snow because it accentuates the beauty of trees and landscape plantings,' says Richard Liberto, 50, of Troy Hill as he shovels his driveway on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Chris Togneri | Tribune-Review
The wet snowfall on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, stuck to just about everything, including the sides of trees and cars in Ross. James Knox | Tribune-Review
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Snow falls on McArdle Roadway on Mount Washington on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. James Knox | Tribune-Review
An unofficial snowfall accumulation total from Lower Burrell hit 10.5 inches on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
Dogs test out the heavy snow on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Chris Togneri | Tribune-Review
Snow was still falling on Perry South looking toward Pittsburgh early Wednesday morning, March 6, 2013. Mike Wereschagin | Tribune-Review
Stanton Heights resident Charlie Farrah uses his snow blower to clean neighbor's sidewalks on Wednesday March 6, 2013. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Dante Sciulli, 14, clears the steps leading to his house in Greenfield after heavy snow overnight led to school cancellations in the area on Wednesday. Photo taken March 6, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

A winter storm walloped some communities on Wednesday but breezed through others, bewildering National Weather Service meteorologists.

The snow, heaviest in parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland and southern Butler, Armstrong and Indiana counties, weighed down power lines and coated tree branches but stopped by mid-morning and began to melt by afternoon, when sunshine raised the temperature to 41 degrees. A reprieve is expected, with weekend temperatures in the 50s.

“It was a very interesting event,” said meteorologist Pat Herald said. “I don't know how else to put it. The heavier totals are very localized.”

Nearly a foot of snow fell in some areas, causing schools to close for the day and giving kids time for sled-riding, snowman-building and snowball fights.

Despite scattered road closures and accidents, many commuters encountered an easy commute on roads that crews plowed and salted early.

The snow may have caused a tree to drop onto a Chevrolet Avalanche driven by James Holmes of Valencia, along Days Run Road in Frazer at 4:30 a.m. Holmes cut his hand.

“It smashed the whole cab. He could have died,” said Frazer police Chief Carl Toscolani.

Doug Kujawa, 41, of Pleasant Hills used a tractor to clear neighbors' driveways.

“It's miserable,” he said. “It's pretty heavy.”

More than 1,300 flights in Washington, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia were scrubbed or delayed — affecting flights at Pittsburgh International Airport — and government offices in Washington closed as the storm, which dropped 9 inches of snow on Chicago, moved east. Forecasters expected it to bring a foot of snow to the Mid-Atlantic coast. A winter storm warning remained in place for parts of New England.

More than 100,000 people in Virginia and Maryland lost power. The weather service reported 24 inches on the ground in Franklin, W.Va. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency.

In Western Pennsylvania, a few thousand customers without power dwindled to a few dozen by late afternoon. In most cases, trees hitting lines caused the outages, said West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers.

In Allegheny County, snowfall ranged from 2 inches in Carnegie, Scott, Oakland and Braddock to nearly a foot in Holiday Park and Natrona Heights, according to unofficial totals from the weather service. About 6 inches fell in Baldwin and Wexford.

Heavy bands left a foot of snow in Sarver in Butler County and in New Kensington and Murrysville in northern Westmoreland County. Up to 5 inches fell in Beaver County and about 7 inches in Washington County.

A glitch in Plum School District's notification service caused confusion. Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said some parents received multiple messages and late messages Wednesday morning. Some messages indicated a two-hour delay; others said the district canceled classes.

“It was a small problem on their end; it caused a large problem on our end,” Glasspool said, noting the service told the district it corrected the problem.

Some colleges and universities delayed or canceled classes. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium closed for the day, and the National Aviary delayed opening. Port Authority of Allegheny County spokesman Jim Ritchie said some bus routes experienced 15-minute delays but the light-rail system and inclines were unaffected.

“All I have to say is, never believe the groundhog,” Lori Cofo, 47, of Mt. Lebanon said of Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of early spring. “He is about the only one who likes the snow. I'm just tired of it and anxious for spring.”

Michael Merck, 34, of Edgewood took the weather in stride as he shoveled his walkway.

“At this time of year, it's always more than you want,” he said. “But they did a good job of telling us to expect a few inches.”

Renatta Signorini is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or Bloomberg News and staff writers Salena Zito, Brian Rittmeyer, Chuck Biedka and Karen Zapf contributed.

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