Winter storm warning issued for Pittsburgh region Tuesday and Wednesday

There’s a storm a comin’ — no matter what kind of precipitation will fall, the National Weather Service says.

The storm that’s torn through the country, causing at least 10 fatal accidents, is closing in quickly on the Pittsburgh region, bringing snow, ice, rain and Thanksgiving travel plan complications.

Pittsburgh is under a winter storm warning from 10 this morning till 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Pittsburghers greet snow with shovels and smiles

The Pittsburgh region woke up this morning to a blanket of snow. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/26/2013)

Pittsburgh and northern areas should anticipate 5 to 9 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Mercer and Venango counties could see as much as 11 inches of snow.

South of the city, about 3 to 5 inches is expected to fall. Areas from the South Hills through Westmoreland and Greene counties should prepare for a wintry mix, complete with rain, ice and snow.

About half an inch of snow was expected to have fallen by this morning in Pittsburgh and north, weather service meteorologist John Darnley said. By 2 p.m., another inch will fall, and by 8, another. From 8 tonight to midnight, the worst of the storm will hit, bringing 2.5 inches of snow. Visibility could drop to 0, Mr. Darnley said.

The snow is expected to slow down Wednesday afternoon, and by midnight, lake effect flurries could enter the region and stick around through Thanksgiving day, when the high is expected to reach 27, almost 20 degrees colder than average. Snow could stay on the ground through early next week.

On Route 70 and the Turnpike, iced ridges will pose a threat to travelers, especially from this afternoon through midnight Wednesday, he said. Travel could be less treacherous early Tuesday or later Wednesday.

“They can’t just jump in the car and say, ‘We’re going to grandma’s,’ ” he said, adding travelers need to be prepared.

Mr. Darnley advised fueling up and packing emergency items, like food, a blanket, a shovel and cat litter to help dig out, if a car should become stuck in the snow.

“It’s much more dangerous when you have a freezing rain event intertwined with a snow event,” he said.

A quarter-inch of ice is more dangerous to drive on than 4 inches of snow, he said.

PennDOT crews will work 12-hour shifts during the storm, spokesman Steve Cowan said. “Our crews will be prepared for whatever storm presents itself. All of our equipment is ready to go.”

Ninety percent of travelers this week will drive, according to AAA, and an estimated 38.9 million people — 1.6 percent fewer than last year — are expected to drive 50 miles or more from their home. Gas is about 15 cents cheaper than last year, AAA said, with a gallon of regular selling for $3.28.

This holiday will likely see the most air travelers since 2007, according to Airlines for America, the industry’s trade and lobbying group, with the busiest day being Sunday, an estimated 2.56 million passengers.

Wednesday is expected to be the second-busiest with 2.42 million passengers.

Pittsburgh International Airport is telling flyers to check with their airlines for delays and cancellations and to arrive early for scheduled flights.

“We’re kind of watching and waiting,” spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said. “There’s still time for the forecast to change.”

More than 300 flights — about one-third of the scheduled departures — were canceled Monday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Icy roads led to hundreds of accidents and at least 10 deaths, half of them in Texas. On Monday, the storm brought a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, southern Kansas and Texas.

The coming snow will, however, make for a good weekend at local and regional ski resorts.

Seven Springs and Hidden Valley in the Laurel Highlands and Holiday Valley and Peek’n Peak in western New York will open for skiing and snowboarding, thanks to a combination of natural snow and “unprecedented” early season snowmaking conditions.

Seven Springs and Hidden Valley, which began making snow last Tuesday, currently have an 8- to 26-inch base and plan to resume snowmaking tonight through Wednesday night, weather permitting.

“As of [Monday], both resorts have at least 8 inches of snow and in some places drifts as high as 8 feet,” said Eric Mauck, chief executive officer of both resorts. Such snow accumulations “are astounding for this time of year.

“We are anticipating the arrival of an abundance of natural snow later this week which will add to the outstanding skiing and snowboarding conditions,” Mr. Mauck added.

Both resorts will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Hours of operation beyond Dec. 1 will be announced later this week.

Seven Springs will open eight slopes and trails and two terrain parks with at least 18 features for snowsports enthusiasts to glide, ride and slide on. At least two chairlifts will be in operation. Lift tickets will cost $51 for adults, $48 for children ages 6 to 11.

Hidden Valley plans to open at least six slopes and trails and one terrain park served by at least two chairlifts and one surface lift. Adult lift tickets will be $28, children (6 to 11) $25. Midweek season passes will be valid for the weekend at both resorts.

Holiday Valley will open 11 or more slopes and trails served by five quad chairlifts and one handle tow from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Its base today ranges in depth from 10 to 25 inches. Adult lift tickets will be $53; juniors (aged 7 to 11) $42. Children 6 and younger are free. The Inn at Holiday Valley is offering two free lift tickets for overnight guests from Nov. 29 through Dec. 24.

Peek’n Peak will open 11 slopes and trails and one terrain park served by three lifts on Friday.

Lexi Belculfine: or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. Jon Schmitz, Post-Gazette snow sports reporter Lawrence Walsh and The Associated Press contributed. First Published November 25, 2013 8:43 AM

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