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Winter storm mostly bypasses Southwestern Pa., but hazards remain | TribLIVE.com
Regional

Winter storm mostly bypasses Southwestern Pa., but hazards remain

Jacob Tierney
| Sunday, January 20, 2019 8:32 a.m
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About 1 to 3 inches of snow fell in Mt. Lebanon overnight into Sunday monring, Jan. 20, 2019.
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About an inch or two of snow covers farmland in Plum on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow and ice blanket Oakmont as snow continues to fall on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow and ice blanket Oakmont as snow continues to fall on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow and ice blanket Oakmont as snow continues to fall on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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The view on Maplewood Avenue between 5th and 6th streets in Ambridge on Sunday morning, Jan. 20, 2019.
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There’s a coating of ice and snow on the playground equipment Sunday morning, Sept. 20, 2019, on Park Road in Ambridge adjacent to Route 65 in Beaver County.
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Traffic travels south on Route 65 at 8th Street in Ambridge on Sunday morning, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow and ice blanket Oakmont as snow continues to fall on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Side roads remain covered as snow and ice blanket Oakmont as snow continues to fall on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow covers the houses and lawns in Baldwin Borough on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow covers the houses and lawns in Baldwin Borough on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Birds flock to a feeder in a snowy East Huntingdon yard on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Light snow blankets the sidewalk on Chapel Harbor Drive along the Allegheny River on Jan. 20, 2019, in O’Hara. As warmer air pushed north, snowfall totals were lower than originally expected.
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Light snow blankets the sidewalk on Chapel Harbor Drive along the Allegheny River on Jan. 20, 2019, in O’Hara. As warmer air pushed north, snowfall totals were lower than originally expected.
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A view from the Five Star Trail in Greensburg on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow covers Palo Alto Street in Pittsburgh’s Mexican War Streets in the Norht Side, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow covers Arch Street in Pittsburgh’s North Side, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow covers Randyland in Pittsburgh’s North Side, Sunday morning, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow fell overnight in Monroeville on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow fell overnight in Forest Hills on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Snow fell overnight in Forest Hills on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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A man uses a snow blower to clear a sidewalk in Tarentum on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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A woman braves the cold and snow during a walk on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
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Joe and Sue Keefe of North Huntingdon walk their dog, Daisy, Sunday afternoon, Jan. 20, 2019, at Twin Lakes Park Joe and Sue Keefe of North Huntingdon walk their dog, Daisy, Sunday afternoon, Jan. 20, 2019, at Twin Lakes Park
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Gene James blows snow from a neighbor’s sidewalk Sunday afternoon Jan. 20, 2019, on North Maple Avenue in Greensburg.
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A snowy South Side and Hill District warm up in the post-snowstorm sunlight Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.

Snowpocalypse it wasn’t.

Local meteorologists tracking last week’s ever-shifting forecasts knew the weekend’s weather would be tricky to predict, and in the end the weekend’s snowfall totals were far smaller than expected — about 2 inches in most of the region.

That’s not to say there’s no weather-related dangers, said NWS meteorologist John Darnley.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning Sunday afternoon.

With the wind chill, the temperature Sunday night and Monday morning could drop to 20 degrees below zero — posing a risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

The rain that soaked Southwestern Pennsylvania on Saturday night turned to ice overnight, leaving roads slick. During the flash freeze, temperatures quickly dropped from the 30s to the teens.

Eventually the rain turned to snow, about 2 inches of it in most of the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Darnley warned that roads would still be hazardous because of the ice.

“To say we missed it is definitely an underestimation of what a winter storm warning is,” he said. “We put out winter storm warnings, and we put those out to say the winter weather will affect you in a hazardous way.”

The advancing low-pressure front that carried the storm pushed a wave of warmer air ahead of it.

Figuring out where that line of warm air would end up stumped meteorologists all week.

“We had multiple models that indicated differently,” Darnley said. “That was our message from day 1.”

Models early in the week showed the Pittsburgh region receiving anywhere from 2 to 16 inches of snow, TV meteorologists told the Tribune-Review.

As late as Saturday morning, the National Weather Service predicted the region could receive 6 inches of snow.

Winter weather warnings for most of the region — including Allegheny and Westmoreland counties — were downgraded to winter weather advisories.

Emergency dispatchers in Allegheny and Westmoreland county said Sunday morning was fairly quiet, with few reports of accidents on icy roads.

A commercial vehicle ban on Pennsylvania highways was lifted in most regions, though one remained in effect on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near New Castle until Sunday afternoon.

Some areas did get the full force of the storm.

Residents in northern Butler County reported more than a foot of snow, according to Tribune-Review news partner WPXI.

More than 300 churches cancelled or delayed their Sunday services, according to Tribune-Review news partner WPXI.

Meteorologists have been dealing with hundreds of tweets and other messages on social media — some understanding, some mocking and some condemning.

WPXI meteorologist Scott Harbaugh said the jabs come with the job.

“You’re going to take a beating once in a while,” he said. “It goes with the gig, there’s no doubt about that.”

Harbaugh is active on social media, and usually receives a few dozen Twitter mentions a day. This weekend he’s received hundreds, and he plans to respond to every one of them.

“If I’m going to take credit for a correct forecast,” he said, “then I want to get back to people who are angry about an incorrect one.”


Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.


Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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