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Winter barrels in with bitter wind, snow expected

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2007

The main weather ingredient for the next few days can be summed up in four letters, W-I-N-D.

According to meteorologist Lee Hendricks of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, Armstrong County experienced wind gusts of up to 45 mph last night and can expect slightly stronger blasts, up to 50 mph, at various times today.

Hendricks had predicted 1 to 3 inches of snow for Monday morning with daytime temperatures in the mid-20s. He said more snow is expected later tonight with temperatures dipping to 20 or the high teens accompanied by 25 mph winds tonight.

"It will be a brutal Monday," Hendricks said, "because the wind and temperature will combine to form windchills around zero."

The wind may have been as big a factor as the snow with all area schools on a two-hour delay today.

Hendricks said the county is due for a slight warming spell Tuesday as daytime temperatures reach the upper 30s. Although temperatures are slated to dip into the mid-20s Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Thursday should bring a brief respite with daytime temperatures in the 40s. However, more snow and rain are in the offing for Thursday and temperatures may fall again during the weekend.

PennDOT District 10, Armstrong County, was not caught off guard by the weather, as its fleet of 31 trucks struck a pre-emptive blow against the coming storm by coating major roads during the weekend with anti-icing material before the first flake of snow or drop of frozen rain hit the area.

PennDOT Spokesman Mark Hillwig said the "snow patrol" is out in force with drivers working 12-hour shifts spreading salt and anti-skid material on state roadways in the county.

"We keep a close eye on the weather and try to keep ahead of storms," Hillwig said. "Our District 10 Incident Command Center in Indiana coordinates information with other counties in the district, and also provides information to the public by way of radio, television and PennDOT's Website."

Hillwig said the Website had a new feature added this year, "Traveler Information."

He said interstate roadway conditions are updated every 15 minutes and Website viewers may observe conditions on one weather trouble spot, Hogback Hill or Route 28, by way of a live camera, part of PennDOT's Road Weather Information System.

"Our customers may also call a toll-free number, 888-783-6783, to receive road condition reports," he said. "People who do a lot of traveling around the state may want to have information e-mailed to them directly and can sign up for e-mail updates on the Website at: www.dot.state.pa.us."

Hillwig cautioned that when temperatures dip into the low 20s, road salt is not as effective as it is at temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s.

"We urge all motorists to be aware of this and evaluate if it is necessary to be on the roads during the times of major storms. We also urge motorists to increase the distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead of them. If you're going on a trip you may consider notifying someone at your intended destination when you are leaving, your intended route, and when you expect to arrive."

Hillwig said PennDOT road crews will continue patrolling state roadways Monday and Tuesday continuing plowing operations and applying salt or anti-skid material where needed.

As of Sunday afternoon, Armstrong 911 said there was no increase in the amount of vehicle accident calls and no reports of power outages or other weather related incidents.

Other areas in the state weren't so lucky.

The storm moved through the state and left wind, snow, ice and major power outages in its wake. The state's Public Utility Commission says a total of about 160,000 customers are without power.

According to its Web site, PPL is estimating about 75,000 customers are without power in central and eastern Pennsylvania early Sunday evening. The hardest hit area is Harrisburg, with nearly 25,000 without service.

The situation has improved for some MetEd customers. The company's Web site estimates less than 30,000 people are without electricity in Berks, York and Lebanon counties.

Peco says 3,800 customers are without power in the five-county Philadelphia area.

The storm hit some areas of the state Saturday with a mix of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow. Continued precipitation is expected through Monday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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