Pennsylvanians are urged to pay attention to weather forecasts and remain alert for rapidly changing conditions and brutal cold this holiday weekend.
“Many people are traveling to spend time with friends and family this weekend, so it’s important to know the forecast for your home, your destination and points along your intended travel route,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “We can’t control the weather, but we each can control how informed and prepared we are, so that we can make decisions that keep our loved ones safe.”
According to the National Weather Service, a dangerous winter storm arriving Thursday will bring numerous hazards from west to east across the state, including icing, snowfall, a flash freeze, and dangerous winds and cold that will last through the weekend.
Thursday morning, we can expect ice and snow, particularly in the central and northern mountains. Throughout the day temperatures will rise, bringing rain statewide and the threat of isolated flash flooding for central and eastern Pennsylvania overnight into Friday.
A dramatic drop in temperatures Friday morning and early afternoon could cause of a flash freeze, meaning any water left on the roadways or sidewalks will quickly freeze and make travel difficult. Strong winds gusting up to 50-60 miles per hour could also bring down power lines and tree limbs. Wind chills will reach negative teens and 20s Friday night, creating hypothermia and frostbite hazards. Homeowners should also be aware of the threat of frozen water pipes.
The dangerous cold and windy weather will continue into Sunday, for the Christmas holiday. For northwestern Pennsylvanians, lake effect snow will kick in on Friday with blowing and accumulating snow lasting into Sunday.
“We know that many Pennsylvanians are looking forward to their holiday plans,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “If you’re planning to travel, don’t forget to check 511PA.com or the 511PA smartphone app for the latest weather and travel information. The PennDOT team is ready and will work before and throughout the storm to help keep motorists safe during this busy travel season.”
Because temperatures will be very low, the potential for icy roads is high, and PennDOT urges motorists to avoid travel if possible. But if travel is necessary, use caution, reduce speeds and be aware of changing weather conditions. PennDOT has been pre-treating roadways to help prevent ice from forming a bond with the pavement during the early stages of a storm. However, salt is not a silver bullet, and drivers may encounter icy spots on the roadway. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.
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 151 crashes resulting in three fatalities and 81 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.