Hempfield implements travel restrictions

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Hempfield Township has issued a disaster declaration, restricting vehicle travel and reducing speed limits due to a "critical shortage" of road salt as the edge of a major winter storm hits western Pennsylvania.

"This declaration has been initiated because the current snow forecast and critical salt supply levels have created a scenario that is detrimental to public safety," a township news release says.

The declaration, which will be in effect from 8 p.m. today until 10 a.m. Saturday, says "vehicle travel shall not be permitted" on township roads except for people going to work, vehicles, including school buses, taking students to school, drivers going to a hospital, medical center or doctor's office, or commercial traffic.

It also reduces speed limits. Roads posted at 25 mph are limited to 15 mph, those posted at 26 to 45 mph are limited to 25 mph and roads posted at above 46 mph will be limited to 35 mph.

"All residents are urged to only travel on the roadways if extremely warranted," the release says. "The Township of Hempfield requests all unnecessary travel to be delayed until roadway conditions improve."

"We're not having any problem that anybody else isn't having," said Andrew Walz, Hempfield Township manager. "We're just bigger."

With more winter weather expected this weekend and 300 miles of roads that the township is responsible for maintaining, he said officials decided to conserve dwindling supplies. Hempfield, which has a population of about 43,000, had about 800 tons on hand as of this evening and officials don't know when to expect more.

"We've had 3,000 tons of salt on back order for about a month," Mr. Walz said, adding that small shipments of about 75 tons each have been trickling in."We're using it as soon as it comes in."

Mr. Walz said the township will adjust the emergency declaration as weather allows.

The National Weather Service extended a winter weather advisory until 7 p.m. for Fayette, Greene, Westmoreland and Indiana counties, with forecast accumulations of an additional 1 to 2 inches. Locations to the south and east of those counties in Maryland and West Virginia were under a winter storm warning, with 6 to 12 inches expected.

A winter storm is spreading ice and snow from Georgia to Maine, with more than a foot of snow possible in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Washington, D.C., and Boston. The federal government in Washington was shut down for the day, and nonessential Pennsylvania employees in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Reading and Scranton were given the day off. The Capitol complex in Harrisburg was closed.

rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-253-3909. Twitter @rczullo. First Published February 13, 2014 6:35 PM

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