Up to 8 inches of snow forecast for the Pittsburgh region

Winter storm warning in effect through Monday afternoon

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A Pacific storm bringing much-needed precipitation out west will reach Pennsylvania from Sunday into Monday and could bring snow to most of the state, the National Weather Service said.

Southwestern Pennsylvania -- including Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties -- are under a winter storm warning from midnight Sunday through 1 p.m. Monday, and the Weather Service warns the storm could bring 6 to 8 inches of snow. The heaviest snow is expected Sunday evening into Monday morning.

Armstrong, Beaver, Butler and Indiana counties are under a winter storm advisory during the same time period and could see 4 to 6 inches of snow. A winter storm watch covers Somerset and Cambria counties, where 4 to 6 inches of snow and .25 to .5 inches of ice could impact travelers and accumulate on trees and power lines causing delays in service.

Precipitation totals will depend on where, precisely, the cold front tracks. If the storm shift a few dozen miles to the north, that could result in less snow, but more ice, sleet and freezing rain.

In Pittsburgh, city officials warned it could take up to 48 hours after the snow ends to clear the roads.

The city, which has been grappling with a salt shortage, has 2,000 tons of road salt in reserve and an additional 1,000 tons of sand or granular limestone that's been treated with calcium chloride, according to Mayor Bill Peduto's office.

City officials urged residents to be patient and to avoid calling in complaints about unplowed streets for two days after the snowfall ends. They're preparing for a level 3 snow and ice event, which calls for focusing on primary and emergency routes.

"We're going to be working closely with public safety to make sure medics, police and firefighters get to where they need to go," operations director Guy Costa said Friday.

The city plans to deploy 50 public trucks in 12-hour shifts as soon as the heaviest snow starts to fall and increase the fleet to 65 trucks by Monday morning. A total of 76 vehicles will be available to deal with the storm by affixing snow plows to supervisors' vehicles and environmental service pick-up trucks.

The state Department of Transportation was taking no chances, meeting with forecasters, state emergency personnel and workers in the field Friday to go over the storm’s potential and make preparations.

PennDOT accelerated deliveries of road salt this week, sending 60 dump trucks to pick up 20,000 tons from a vendor in Delaware to be taken to the Philadelphia, Allentown and Harrisburg regions. The round-the-clock deliveries were expected to be completed today.

This year’s unusually harsh winter has taken a toll on PennDOT’s winter weather budget.

PennDOT has spent about $200 million on winter weather so far, exceeding its budget of $189 million. The agency has already spread nearly 1.1 million tons of salt this winter, up nearly 50 percent over the previous five-year average.

Wave after wave of winter storms have grounded tens of thousands of flights, frozen pipes, collapsed roofs and disrupted business across the U.S. Insured losses reached more than $1.5 billion since Jan. 1, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

The timing of this storm is almost certain to disrupt the morning commute Monday, as well as scrub flights at airports across the Northeast.

“It’s a great way to start the week,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pa.

What the storm will do and how it affects the cities along the East Coast will depend on its track and where the boundary of a cold front sets up. It currently looks as though Boston will receive all snow, while Philadelphia and Washington will get a mix of snow, sleet and rain.

There’s at least a 30 percent chance for 8 inches of snow in New York from late Sunday into Monday.

The storm brought some of the highest rainfall totals to the Los Angeles area in years, including eight inches on some mountains, was just the beginning of what the region needs to pull out of a major drought.

Although the storm was expected to remain strong today, forecasters said such systems would have to become common for the state to make serious inroads against the drought.

“We need several large storms and we just don’t see that on the horizon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said Friday. “This is a rogue storm. We will dry out next week.”

Forecasters expected the storm to last through today in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.

Around San Francisco Bay, the storm led to an urban and small stream flood warning, as rain in excess of a half-inch an hour moved in, according to the National Weather Service. Wet roadways and crashes slowed the morning commute, and there were isolated power outages.

Numerous traffic accidents also occurred on slick or flooded roads across Southern California, and a 10-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway west of Malibu was closed as a precaution against possible rockslides from a fire-scarred section of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Winter storm warnings were in effect in the Sierra Nevada for heavy snowfall.

First Published March 1, 2014 8:53 AM

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