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Another round of snow on the way to Westmoreland

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 7:57 p.m.

Municipalities in Westmoreland County are bracing for yet another winter storm.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Alicia Miller, parts of the county, including Greensburg, Jeannette and Ligonier, could get between 6 and 8 inches of snow from Sunday afternoon through Monday afternoon.

Forecasts previously predicted the storm would mainly affect the northern part of the region, but it appears it is moving farther south, Miller said.

“There is still a bit of uncertainty in our forecast right now because of the change in our computer models,” she said.

The system is expected to start early Sunday with a mix of rain and sleet for areas south of Interstate 70, Miller said. Light snow could start Sunday morning, with heavier snow accumulating between Sunday night and Monday morning.

“Originally, we thought it would snow through most of Monday, but it looks like maybe things will be tapering off in the afternoon,” she said.

Miller said the higher accumulations are expected to occur in the southern parts of the region.

“The further north you go, the less snow there will be,” she said. “There will be a pretty sharp cut-off in the snow further north.”

Pittsburgh could have 6 to 8 inches, but its accumulation could be on the lower end of the scale. Butler and Beaver are predicted to receive 4 to 6 inches, she said.

With the winter storm watch issued by the National Weather Service for Westmoreland County, Hempfield Township Emergency Management Coordinator Robert G. Gerlach issued a voluntary travel advisory.

Gerlach said officials are asking drivers to limit travel only for essential reasons, cautioning those who must drive to maintain lower speeds than usual.

He said the township's salt supply is not as critical as it was last month, but road crews are still conserving as much as possible.

“We're only applying road treatment materials to hills, dangerous curves and intersections,” he said.

In Ligonier Township, Roadmaster Tim Komar said crews have all of their trucks “loaded and ready to go” for the snowfall.

He said the crews plan to treat the roads during their first plow, so that the salt and anti-skid “keep the snow soft” and prevent it from adhering to the road.

Sewickley Township officials Saturday night issued a voluntary travel restriction beginning midnight Saturday until 1 p.m. Monday because of the storm forecast to hit the region.

Township officials are asking motorists to limit driving only for essential purposes and to delay any non-emergency travel until roadway conditions improve because Sewickley has been forced to conserve its road salt because of the limited supplies of the material, said Paul Rupnik Jr., director of the Sewickley Township Emergency Management Agency. Less traffic on the roads will expedite snow removal and facilitate emergency response times, Rupnik said.

Sewickley Township Emergency Management will keep residents informed via its Facebook page and Nixle, a free, web-based mass notification service that allows public agencies to alert residents of emergencies, Rupnik said. Residents who register with Nixle receive a text message, email, smart phone app or voice notification.

In Fayette County, 911 Coordinator Guy Napolillo and emergency management crews have been keeping a close watch on the timing of the storm in order to determine when its dispatch center will need extra staff, such as if the majority of the accumulation arrives during rush hour and causes vehicle accidents.

“We want to make sure that we have enough people there, but we don't want anybody to get hurt getting to work either,” Napolillo said.

Snowfall is also expected in Somerset County. Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator David Fox said the area is usually placed under a winter storm watch during such forecasts.

“For the most part I think we're supposed to get 5 to 8 inches,” Fox said. “Over the course of a day that's not going to amount to too much for us.”

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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