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City, PennDOT bracing for heavy snowfall

| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 11:18 a.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto urged residents on Friday to prepare for the possibility of treacherous roads and travel delays as a winter storm moves into the region.

The National Weather Service said a storm Sunday into Monday could bring snow to most of the state. It posted a winter storm watch for most of Western Pennsylvania, saying 6 inches are likely throughout the region and “significantly more” is possible in some areas.

Elsewhere, the forecast called for “moderate to heavy snow” Sunday afternoon through most of Monday. Ice is also possible in southern Pennsylvania.

Forecasters cautioned the storm track is far from certain and stressed that predicted snowfall amounts could change.

The state Department of Transportation accelerated deliveries of road salt this week, sending 60 dump trucks to pick up 20,000 tons from a vendor in Delaware to be taken to the Philadelphia, Allentown and Harrisburg regions. The round-the-clock deliveries are expected to be completed Saturday.

This year's unusually harsh winter has taken a toll on PennDOT's winter weather budget.

PennDOT has spent about $200 million on winter weather so far, exceeding its budget of $189 million. The agency has spread nearly 1.1 million tons of salt this winter, up nearly 50 percent over the previous five-year average. It also extended a temporary waiver allowing salt truck drivers to be behind the wheel for 14 hours instead of the usual 11 before they must rest.

City Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa and Public Works Director Mike Gable said crews — working 12- or 16-hour shifts — plan to begin plowing emergency and primary routes when the heavy snow starts falling Sunday night and then begin plowing and salting roads around 6 a.m. Monday. Gable said the city has 76 vehicles — dump trucks, pickup trucks and farm tractors used in city parks — that will be equipped with plows and salt boxes to work on the roads.

As of Friday, the city's reserves included 2,000 tons of road salt, and 1,000 tons of sand and granular limestone, mixed with liquid calcium chloride. The city will continue to receive shipments of road treatment materials after the arrival of what Costa and Gable called a level three storm — 6 to 10 inches of ice or snow.

“We do have materials available, not as much as we would like to have, to be able to keep the primary and emergency routes open,” Peduto said. “Public safety is our number one concern.”

Secondary streets will be plowed after the major routes are passable.

It could take up to 48 hours after the snowfall ends for streets to be clear, and the fewer vehicles traveling roads Monday the faster crews can complete their work, Peduto said.

Staff writer Michael Hasch and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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