With a slow-moving winter storm expected to bring snow, sleet, ice accumulation and rain across the state lasting into Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians that the state of emergency declaration he signed in January remains in effect to allow for increased assistance with storm-related needs.
“I want all Pennsylvanians to be vigilant in traveling safely as winter weather again makes its way across Pennsylvania for much of this afternoon through early Wednesday,” Governor Wolf said. “The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has been in contact with state agencies involved in weather-related activities, including PennDOT and local emergency management agencies to make certain we are prepared.”
“Pennsylvania is a large state, and storms like these affect regions throughout the commonwealth very differently from one another,” said Acting PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “We encourage everyone to stay tuned into their local news for important storm updates. In the meantime, PEMA is actively monitoring the storm in coordination with other state agencies and our partners in local government to help them meet any unmet needs that may arise.”
Much of the state is under a winter weather advisory or warning. Accumulations vary, but many can expect to see 4 to 6 inches through Wednesday; the northernmost counties could get up to 8 inches and southwestern Pennsylvania will see the least amount of snow at less than 2 inches.
Snow followed by ice, which could accumulate up to one-half inch in higher elevations and one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch across much of the state, is also forecast.
PennDOT and the PA Turnpike are implementing phased restrictions through the storm. Depending on conditions, restrictions may be expanded or reduced. See a map of planned restrictions at www.penndot.gov. When restrictions are in effect, see www.511PA.com.
The governor’s continuing emergency declaration authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel, as necessary, to cope with the magnitude and severity of the storm’s impacts. The time-consuming bid and contract procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, are waived for the duration of the proclamation.
It is important to note that the declaration does not restrict citizens from travel on commonwealth roadways, but motorists should be aware of restrictions that are in place and heed the guidance of local authorities.
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 with 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.
PEMA works with county emergency management personnel to monitor unmet local needs during inclement weather affecting travel, utilities, and shelter. You are encouraged to monitor state agency social media accounts for the most up-to-date information on any emergency or weather-related situation affecting the state, in addition to any social media accounts for your local emergency management offices.
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.
In addition to driving safely around plows, motorists are urged to drive according to conditions. If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 440 crashes resulting in 221 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
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. For more information about PA Turnpike conditions, follow the conversation by using www.paturnpike.com/travel/twitter. You may also see advisories by clicking on the travel ticker on www.PATurnpike.com.
PennDOT has created a Winter Safety media center, including social-media-sized graphics highlighting winter driving preparations and operations at www.penndot.gov in the “Media Center” under the “About Us” footer.
For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at PennDOT.gov/safety.
Follow the conversation by using #PAWinter on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PennDOTNews and visit the department on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaDepartmentofTransportation to view a winter emergency kit video.
“With safety our priority, I remind everyone to please heed warnings from emergency responders and personnel, and remember to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly,” Gov. Wolf said. “Let’s all do our part to be prepared and safe during this stretch of winter weather.”