PITTSBURGH - A winter storm is moving through western Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, with the worst impact for Pittsburgh coming at the height of the morning rush. Severe Weather Team 11 has reporters spread out across the region to learn how state and local officials prepared, and what is being done during the storm.
Download the WPXI News App for the latest weather alerts and watch extended winter storm coverage NOW on Channel 11.
Washington County was the first area to feel the effects of this storm, which started moving in about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Channel 11's Cara Sapida spoke to road crews about how they began pretreating Tuesday night before sunset in hopes of doing everything they can to keep roads safe.
>>FORECAST: Snow, wintry mix moving in for Wednesday morning
"We have been in contact with the street department. They are pretreating roads this afternoon and calling in crews early tomorrow morning just to be prepared," Washington's mayor, Scott Putnam, said.
Pittsburgh Public Works leaders say anyone driving into or around the city during the Wednesday morning commute should expect delays.
The storm swept into the city about 6 a.m. and is expected to continue through noon before temperatures warm up enough for rainfall.
Public Works Director Mike Gable told Channel 11's Gordon Loesch he's worried about a repeat of the storm the city saw two and a half weeks ago that caused major delays across the area.
"Every snow event is a challenge and different, dealt differently," he said. "They'll continue to put material down until it begins to snow and then we'll go completely into salting mode."
In Bridgeville, PennDOT said more than 60 trucks hit the roads at midnight, pretreating the major routes and preparing for the storm.
Greesnburg Public Works Director Tom Bell said his team is used to dealing with snow, but this storm has a higher level of concern because that snow will be covered with a layer of ice.
As the storm moves in, snow will turn to freezing rain. Because the ground will be colder than the air, this freezing rain will likely turn to ice, creating a crust on top of the several inches of snow.
“If it’s ice, that’s when everybody is leaving for work and kids with school and buses getting moving. That’s going to be the problem, but I’ll be monitoring it through the night," Bell told Channel 11's Melanie Marsalko.
Bell said there are plenty of supplies left for the season and he considers this a mild winter.
“It’s just one of those years again, these nuisance snows. That’s the problem that’s where you use the salt on, you’re out snows an inch, snows another inch, that’s the problem," he said.
In Cranberry, public safety officials are using traffic cameras to help ensure the roads are safe for the morning commute.
Maintenance workers showed Channel 11's Amy Marcinkiewicz how they had dozens of cameras throughout the township. Cranberry Public Works covers more than 130 miles of roads and has 14 trucks ready to roll at the first sign of bad weather.
"Our primary snow fighting agent is going to be rock salt, so regardless if its 1-3 inches followed by ice we have our stock pile is adequate for an event like this. we feel like we are pretty prepared for anything that is expected to come tomorrow," Cranberry Public Works Director Jason Dailey said.
PennDOT Announces Vehicle Restrictions:
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and PA Turnpike are advising motorists to closely monitor weather forecasts and conditions as a storm brings snow and ice statewide.
Due to potential snowfall and anticipated sleet or freezing rain along with balancing needs for goods movement, PennDOT and the PA Turnpike are implementing phased restrictions through the storm.
Depending on conditions, restrictions may be expanded or reduced.
#Breaking: Due to potential snowfall, sleet & freezing rain, PennDOT and @PATurnpikeAlert are implementing phased restrictions STARTING AT 6 A.M. WEDNESDAY. See the full list → https://t.co/OvOkOsapnE#PAWinter CC: @ReadyPA @GovernorTomWolf @P_M_T_A pic.twitter.com/c44qNKIbK8— PA Department of Transportation (@PennDOTNews) February 19, 2019
At 6 a.m. Wednesday, a full commercial vehicle ban (including buses) went into effect on I-70 in Fulton County (from the Maryland state line to the Turnpike); I-99 from I-80 to the Turnpike; and I-80 from I-79 to the I-99 interchange.
Also at 6 a.m. Wednesday, from New Stanton (exit 75) east to Carlisle (exit 226), the Turnpike will prohibit:
- Empty, straight CDL-weighted trucks;
- All Large Combination Vehicles (double trailers);
- Tractors hauling empty trailers;
- Any trailers pulled by motorcycles, passenger vehicles, pickup trucks or SUVs;
- All motorcycles; and
- All recreational vehicles and RVs.
At noon Wednesday, PennDOT and the PA Turnpike will prohibit only empty, straight CDL-weighted trucks; all Large Combination Vehicles (double trailers); tractors hauling empty trailers; any trailers pulled by motorcycles, passenger vehicles, pickup trucks or SUVs; all motorcycles; and all recreational vehicles and RVs on the following roadways:
- PA Turnpike (I-76, I-276, I-95) from I-81 to I-95 (Exit 43);
- I-76 (Turnpike and non-Turnpike, New Stanton to Philadelphia);
- I-78 full length from I-81 to the New Jersey state line;
- I-80 from I-99 to the New Jersey state line;
- I-81 from the Maryland state line to the New York state line;
- I-83 from the Maryland state line to I-81;
- I-84 full length from I-81 to the New York state line;
- I-180 full length from Route 220/U.S. 15 to I-80;
- I-276; PA Turnpike
- I-380 full length from I-81 to I-80;
- I-476 (non-Turnpike, full length);
- I-476 (PA Turnpike, Northeast Ext.) from Mid County (exit 20) to Clarks Summit (exit 131);
- Route 22 from I-78 to the New Jersey state line; and
- Route 33 from I-78 to I-80.
A 45-mph speed restriction will be in place on all roadways with vehicle restrictions at least during those timeframes and may be implemented sooner and on non-vehicle-restricted roadways as well.
To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
A vehicle emergency kit should be prepared or restocked containing items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.
Motorists should be aware that all vehicles should be fully clear of ice and snow before winter travel. If snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 fine. When winter weather occurs, PennDOT urges drivers to be extra cautious around operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:
- Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
- Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
- When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
- Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a "plow train." The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.
- Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can't see, and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
- Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle's wipers are on due to inclement weather.
To report an accident or other emergencies on the PA Turnpike, dial *11 on your mobile phone. If there is an accident, move the car out of travel lane and onto shoulder, if possible, and stay in the vehicle.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.