Snow greets Pittsburgh commuters, leads to school bus crash in Squirrel Hill

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A storm dropped an inch or so of snow on the Pittsburgh region this morning but left a much deeper accumulation of travel nightmare stories.

The snow turned roads into rinks and led to dozens of crashes, including a school bus that hit a barrier near Pittsburgh Minadeo Pre-K/5.

The National Weather Service posted a winter weather advisory for Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and much of southwest Pennsylvania until noon, saying 2 to 4 inches could fall, mostly before 9 a.m.

As it turned out, 2.5 inches was reported at Penn Hills; 2 to 2.3 inches in Moon; 2 inches in Oakland and Imperial and less than an inch in Scott and Bridgeville, according to the weather service. 

Massive traffic jams developed on most inbound highways, while authorities described many side streets as sheets of ice. A driver on inbound Route 51 reported that it took 30 minutes to travel two miles. Route 28 was backed up from the city out to Pittsburgh Mills, while the Parkway North was jammed nearly to Interstate 79.

Even as 9 a.m. and the typical end of rush hour approached, the website was estimating an hour of travel time on the Parkway East from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Squirrel Hill Tunnels.

Port Authority reported that buses were running about 45 minutes late during the morning rush hour.

The bus taking students to Minadeo slid down a hill on Ludwick Street in Squirrel Hill and struck a barrier at around 9 a.m. Eighteen students were being checked at the scene by paramedics for what were believed to be minor injuries, school district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

While scores of school districts in the suburbs delayed the start of classes, Pittsburgh schools did not.

Ms. Pugh said the snowstorm began just as the first students were beginning to head to school, making it difficult for officials to call a delay.

Some begin their travel as early as 5:30 a.m., she said.

"We try to make the decision as early as possible," she said. "It's hard to pull back when you have students already on their way in."

Mr. Hendricks said temperatures in the 20s made salt less effective in clearing roads, and in most places the snow was not deep enough to plow.

"The timing just before the rush was not a very good situation," he said.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. First Published December 10, 2013 7:15 AM

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