Winter keeps its grip on forecast

Road crews brace for tough weekend

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Brace yourself. Sit down. And get ready for more winter.

That's right, more snow and ice and wintry mix is headed our way this weekend, with some forecasters calling for accumulations of up to 6 to 12 inches of snow in the area by Monday afternoon.

Accuweather is predicting a pileup of up to a foot of snow, with localized accumulations of up to 18 inches, in a broad swath reaching from eastern Kansas, across the Midwest and the Ohio Valley including parts of southwestern Pennsylvania, to the East Coast. And while the meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Moon -- who typically estimate such matters more conservatively -- are predicting about 3 inches will have fallen by Sunday evening, they also acknowledge the heaviest snowfall is expected overnight Sunday into Monday morning.

Unless of course, all that precipitation falls as rain. Or freezing rain. Or freezing rain and sleet, covered with a layer of snow and more freezing rain and some snow.

"The precipitation type is the real question we're having uncertainty with," said meteorologist Rihaan Gangat of the weather service, who said the warmer temperatures to the south will push northward into the region. "There will be a line of wintry mix -- and that's the real concern, how far north that will go -- but it's expected to be all snow around Pittsburgh."

The weather service does not have a snowfall forecast yet that includes Sunday night into Monday morning, he said.

Meanwhile, more than one shell-shocked, salt-hoarding local official uttered a mild profanity when told of the weekend forecast.

"We've had enough!" said borough manager Tim Little of Monroeville, before reflecting with nostalgia about his years of living in Florida.

Road salt? Yes, the borough still has some, or at least it did on Tuesday, he said. About 400 tons were left then, with a typical snowstorm expected to use 200 to 300 tons of that to treat roads. Like many municipalities, Monroeville is still waiting on about 800 tons of the 2,000 tons ordered a month ago, he said.

"Everybody has ordered it, but it's taking a while coming up the Mississippi and Ohio because of, ironically, the storms and cold weather," said Mr. Little, who said he has heard there's a pile of salt at the docks in Elizabeth that hasn't been delivered.

Jerry Duke, manager of Bethel Park, had heard about that salt pile, too, and asked some of his public works employees to take a look when they were in the area Thursday morning. It's not a very big pile, though, and Bethel Park plans to continue stretching its current supply by adding equal parts of sand to the mix, as it has for the past three weeks, he said.

"We do believe we can ride out the next few weeks," he said. "After that, we've got our fingers crossed."

Guy Costa, Pittsburgh's chief operations officer, said the public works department by tonight will have about 2,000 tons of road salt, which workers combine with liquid calcium chloride-coated sand and crushed limestone -- a snow-fighting mix dubbed the "Costa Cocktail" by Mayor Bill Peduto.

"All the trucks will be geared up for plowing, and we will see what happens," said Mr. Costa, who served as the city's public works director for more than 15 years.

But while winter is continuing its assault into March, at least some help is on the way -- a bit late but better than never. All that road salt that local towns and cities have been waiting for? It's almost here, with 17 barges loaded with 25,000 tons of road salt expected to dock at Neville Island and in West Elizabeth sometime next week, according to Lou Gorski, executive director of the South Hills Area Council of Governments Purchasing Alliance.

"All I can say is there's going to be an awful lot of product available for the cleanup, but not the actual snow-fighting," Mr. Gorski said.


Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.

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