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Hempfield declares emergency, restricts road travel

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 6:12 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Lights streak along North Greengate Road from a lone vehicle as it travels toward the intersection with Route 30 on Thursday evening Feb. 13, 2014. Hempfield supervisors declared a disaster emergency on Thursday because of a critical shortage of road salt and the forecast for more snow this weekend, which has resulted in traffic restrictions on 300 miles of roads maintained by the township.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
A motorist travels along a snow-covered Route 30 near Latrobe on Thursday, on Feb. 13, 2014.

Hempfield supervisors declared a disaster emergency on Thursday because of a critical shortage of road salt and the forecast for more snow this weekend, which has resulted in traffic restrictions on 300 miles of roads maintained by the township.

State police at Greensburg patrol Hempfield, and the police have been notified of the disaster declaration, said Robert Gerlach, the township's emergency management coordinator.

Trooper Steve Limani, a spokesman for the Greensburg barracks, could not be reached for comment on Thursday night on how troopers would enforce such restrictions.

Those traffic restrictions, which began at 8 p.m. Thursday in Hempfield and will continue until 10 a.m. Saturday, were instituted by Gerlach, said Douglas Weimer, chairman of the board of supervisors.

To reduce traffic while road conditions are “potentially unsafe,” all but the following members of the general public will be banned from driving on township roads:

• Those traveling to and from work;

• School buses and other people transporting students;

• People traveling to and from a hospital, medical center, or physician;

• Commercial traffic of supplies and services.

• Emergency and government vehicles are exempt.

Roads with posted speed limits of 25 mph and lower are now limited to 15 mph; speed limits up to 45 mph are limited to 25 mph; and speed limits of 46 mph and more are limited to 35 mph.

Among the highways in Hempfield exempted from the traffic restrictions are the following state-maintained roads: routes 30, 66, 130, 136, 819 and 119, plus Turnpike Toll Route 66 (Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass).

Officials in Unity, South Greensburg and Greensburg also imposed travel restrictions on roads into Friday, asking motorists to eliminate unnecessary trips and use patience and caution if driving is unavoidable.

Lee Kunkle, borough manager, said South Greensburg also is low on road salt and expects to learn on Friday how much salt it will receive from the state.

“We wanted to make sure we have enough salt and anti-skid to keep everybody safe,” said Unity Supervisor Mike O'Barto.

The Hempfield supervisors said in a statement that the board determined that Thursday's snowstorm, compounded with the dwindling road salt supply, may jeopardize the safety of the public. Hempfield has received only sporadic shipments of a few hundred tons of the 3,000 tons of salt it ordered from American Road Salt Co., Gerlach said.

After making the disaster declaration, Gerlach said Hempfield was notified by the state that it will receive an allotment of 100 tons of road salt, but the disaster declaration will remain in place. Arrangements will be made Friday to get the 100 tons road salt delivered, which is 400 tons less than Hempfield requested, Gerlach said.

The township has 800 tons of a rock salt and anti-skid mixture to spread on its 300 miles of road, but it uses 200 tons of the mixture each time it applies the snow-melting mixture to all of the roads, said Andrew Walz, township manager. For every one inch of snowfall, the township uses 100 tons of road salt, Gerlach said.

Daniel Stevens, a public safety department spokesman, said Thursday night the state informed Westmoreland County that it would receive an allotment of salt. Stevens declined to say how much salt the state will release to the county, but it will not be enough to fill the emergency requests made by Hempfield, South Greensburg and Trafford, Stevens said.

Municipalities receiving an emergency allotment of road salt will have to give the state that much salt from future deliveries, Stevens said.

“It's not free,” Stevens said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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