Pittsburgh region blanketed by bitter cold snap

In 11 days, Pennsylvania's famous groundhog will tell us if a reprieve from this unseasonably cold weather is on the horizon -- but for now, hopefully Punxsutawney Phil is staying warm, too.

Though this cold snap isn't quite as frigid as the one that passed through the region in early January, subzero temperatures overnight and through the morning caused numerous school districts to be closed or delayed.

"It's cold, but not as cold as those two days in early January," said Rihaan Gangat, National Weather Service meteorologist, referring to a record low of minus 9 on Jan. 7.

A winter weather advisory that expired Tuesday afternoon was replaced by a wind-chill advisory extending to 1 p.m. today.

Peaking at 23 degrees Tuesday afternoon, the temperature was expected to continue falling through the night to minus 4 -- or minus 16 with the windchill -- Mr. Gangat said. Today will see a high of about 11 degrees, though the windchill will still make it feel like minus 5 by afternoon.

This is "well below the average" high of about 36 and low near 20, Mr. Gangat said.

Though the temperature will warm up into the teens over the weekend, its expected to fall back into the single digits next week.

A light but persistent snowfall that began around 4 a.m. Tuesday slowed rush-hour traffic to a crawl and was a factor in numerous crashes. About 3 to 5 inches of snow fell in the region Tuesday.

Port Authority reported service delays of 20 minutes on the Red Line because of traffic backups in Beechview, where police responded to several crashes. Buses ran about 35 minutes late, Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said. Some riders, however, reported delays exceeding an hour.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike reduced the speed limit to 45 mph from Donegal (Exit 91) to all points east. PennDOT also reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on numerous interstate highways and U.S. routes in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The storm disrupted air travel across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic on Tuesday, with more than 3,500 flights canceled and more than 3,800 delayed, according to FlightStats.com. By 9:30 p.m., more than 1,200 flights today were cancelled, with 16 of those at Pittsburgh International. Thirty flights here were cancelled Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said public works crews and 58 of their trucks worked around the clock, pre-salting roads Monday night. Additional medic units were activated in anticipation of a slippery and potentially unsafe morning commute, he said.

The Downtown homeless shelter at United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., is open today, and warming centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at:

Greenfield Healthy Acting Living Center, 745 Greenfield Ave. (412-422-6551)

Homewood Healthy Active Living Center, 7321 Frankstown Ave. (412-244-4190)

North Side, Allegheny Center Healthy Active Living Center, Allegheny Square (412-323-7239)

Sheraden Healthy Active Living Center, 720 Sherwood Ave. (412-777-5012)

South Side Healthy Active Living Center, 12th and Bingham streets (412-488-8404)

For the latest watches, warnings and advisories, visit the National Weather Service website. Current conditions and the latest forecast are available at the Post-Gazette's weather page.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic. Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.

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