Valley drivers, road crews prepare for snow
Valley hardware stores, tire dealers and road crews are ready, so let it snow.
The National Weather Service is calling for 4 to 6 inches of snow on the ground by Saturday morning in the Pittsburgh region due to a storm center from the southwest that began moving through the region late Thursday, meteorologist Terry Parrish said.
As the snow falls during the next three days, temperatures are expected to hover around the freezing mark, Parrish said.
Last December, 11 inches of snow fell across the Pittsburgh area -- about 4 inches more than usual, according to National Weather Service statistics.
With the mercury falling and the threat of snowflakes in the forecast, the Valley is busy preparing for its first taste of winter. Before 11 p.m. Thursday, Tarentum road crews were spreading rock salt on borough streets.
Sales of rock salt and more powerful deicers such as calcium chloride and potassium chloride have been brisk this week at Lane's True Value Hardware in Cheswick, store owner John Lane said.
"Business picked up today when they started calling for some snow and ice," Lane said. "The season's almost here."
Likewise, the run on road salt, ice melters, snow shovels, insulation and weather stripping for windows has begun at Busy Beaver in New Kensington, according to store manager Mike Cecchi.
"It's not a panic yet," Cecchi said. "But people have been coming in to get their shovels and ice chippers."
Tire sales also were sweetened this week as drivers prepared for the predicted ice and snow.
At Highland Tire in Tarentum, motorists were lined up Thursday afternoon along Second Avenue to have winter tires put on their vehicles, company Vice President Brad Bonnett said.
"A ton," was Bonnett's response when asked how many snow tires the store has sold this week.
At lunchtime at Highland Tire's Harrison location, more than 20 vehicles were in line waiting to winterize their vehicles.
"It's been like this all day," said Don Kemp, the store's assistant manager.
Furnace inspection season also is in full swing, as people make sure their homes will be warm and safe during the cold weather.
At Apollo Plumbing and Heating, technicians receive 10 to 15 calls per day for winter repairs or broken furnaces, said employee Marilyn Greece.
"It's overwhelming almost," Greece said. "I'm already scheduled into January."
A malfunctioning furnace or fireplace could cause a house to fill with deadly carbon monoxide, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.
Finally, municipalities across the Valley are making sure salt sheds are full and plows are ready to roll.
Borough Secretary April Winklmann said Springdale has 220 tons of salt stored and two trucks ready to clear the streets in the event of snowfall.
"That's an awful lot of salt for a small community like us," Winklmann said.
There's also plenty of salt to go around for state roads.
Last winter, PennDOT District 11, which covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, used about 80,000 tons of salt and 46,500 tons of anti-skid material.
About $11 million is budgeted this winter to keep the district roads clear, according to PennDOT spokesman Dick Skrinjar.
"With winter just around the corner, PennDOT is ready for the attack against snow and severe weather that is likely to impair driving," Skrinjar said.
2002: 11 inches.
2001: 5 inches.
2000: 8.3 inches.
1999: 3.2 inches.
1998: 1.8 inches.
Average December snowfall from 1971 to 2000: 6.9 inches.
Source: National Weather Service