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Residents prepare for snowstorm

| Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005

With a substantial amount of snow in today's forecast, people in the Fay-West region are preparing to cope with the winter weather.

Wayne Rumburg, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said snow is expected to start falling late this afternoon and will not end until Friday at dawn, leaving the area with possibly more than 6 inches of snow.

"This all depends on the exact track of the storm," Rumburg said. He noted that Fayette County should receive the snow before Westmoreland County, and should expect more snow in the mountain area.

"It will be a little windy and gusty," Rumburg added, of the 25 to 30 mph winds expected later today. "The temperatures will remain about the same as they've been the past few days, with daytime highs in the low 30s, and nighttime temperatures in the low 20s."

News of the snowy weather has residents preparing.

Ted Phillippi, vice president of human resources for Pechin Shopping Village, said items like rock salt, snow shovels, snow boots, winter jackets and windshield washer fluid have increased in sales by 50 percent.

"The change in climate has people scrambling to be prepared," Phillippi said.

He added that the big push for customers to purchase winter items started in the middle of November.

Yesterday, Phillippi looked over the grocery store registers and reported that all eight registers were in operation with 80 percent of the shoppers buying what everyone expects people to buy when word of bad weather spreads: milk and bread.

"We have old and new customers coming here to be prepared," Phillippi said about the store's new location at the Laurel Mall along Route 119.

PennDOT officials urge motorists not to go out in the snow unless necessary, and to watch out for the plow and salt trucks if they do.

If a motorist does come upon a plow truck, Valerie Petersen, PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman, suggests keeping a reasonable distance behind the vehicle, and do not attempt to pass. She said the truck may make an unexpected turn and the drivers have limited visibility.

Petersen said PennDOT crews are prepared for the bad weather and have stocked plenty of salt and anti-skid material.

The best way for area residents to be prepared is to just be safe, she said. "Depending on the bad weather, it's always safer to stay home."

If people need to head out, Petersen suggests they take steps like clearing a vehicle's windows and windshield, make sure the gas tank is full, use their headlights to make their vehicle visible, give themselves enough time to get where they're going and, in case of getting stuck in the snow, the vehicle should contain a blanket, socks, an extra coat, a bottle of water and nonperishable food items.

If stuck in the snow, Petersen suggests motorists treat the situation the same as they would a vehicle accident: Pull off the road as much as possible, activate the vehicle's blinkers, have a cell phone handy, and if they need to leave the vehicle, do not be exposed to the traffic and stay clear from the vehicle.

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