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Region braces for flooding, then up to 8 inches' snow

| Friday, March 11, 2011

A winter storm could dump as much as 8 inches of snow on the Pittsburgh area by this afternoon, leading road crews to postpone construction projects and public works officials to prepare for long shifts.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch and a flood warning for much of Western Pennsylvania. Rivers are expected to hit flood stage, and snow is forecast to continue into Saturday.

"We don't take the plows or spreaders off until April, because we know there's always the possibility that anything could happen," said Philip LaMay, deputy director of Allegheny County Public Works. "We try to be prepared for anything."

The region was forecast to begin seeing 1 to 3 inches of snow after midnight, with another 2 to 4 inches expected throughout this morning, said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon.

Temperatures in the region were expected to hover in the low 30s overnight, making the accumulation a "wet, heavy snow," he said.

The Ohio River at the Point was expected to hit 25 feet -- flood stage -- by this morning, filling the "bathtub" section of the Parkway Central, Downtown. The 10th Street Bypass was expected to flood Thursday night, when the river would hit 22 feet, Hendricks said.

The river is expected to crest tonight at 27.5 feet and not fall below the 25-foot flood stage until sometime on Saturday, Hendricks said.

LaMay said 60 trucks and more than 125 crew members will work through all shifts until Saturday morning. He said the county has about 5,000 tons of salt left to last the winter season.

"We're not worried at this point about having enough salt, or enough people," LaMay said. "The key is to pre-treat the roads and get out ahead of this, and that's what we plan to do. The temperatures will be a bit higher this time, so we shouldn't have to worry about ice."

The approaching snowstorm has caused PennDOT to postpone work on two projects.

The $17.3 million project to repair the Boston Bridge in Versailles and Elizabeth Township was scheduled to resume along Route 48 at 7 p.m., resulting in an overnight detour for northbound motorists and restrictions today.

A Columbia Gas project along Banksville Road between Chappel and Goldstrom avenues was expected to result in lane closures and restrictions today. PennDOT officials did not say when either project would resume.

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