Snowy municipalities find some relief with state's salt

Three Westmoreland County municipalities will get some relief from a scarcity of road salt that caused two of them to declare disaster emergencies this week, but an Allegheny County township declared its own salt emergency Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will lend salt from its stockpiles to Hempfield, South Greensburg and Trafford, officials said. Hampton officials, however, said they are so low on salt that they will treat only intersections and hills for the foreseeable future.

"Accordingly, residents should exercise extra caution during snow/ice events," township officials said Friday afternoon.

Hampton and other communities struggling with dwindling supplies may get a much bigger boost next week -- from the weather. The snow and cold that have been relentless for most of the winter will give way to temperatures rising to the 40s by Tuesday and 50s by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

But first, there will be a bit more snow to deal with.

In Pittsburgh, 1 to 3 inches was expected, mostly before 9 a.m. today, the weather service said. The daytime high will be 25. Snow showers also are possible tonight and Sunday, with tonight's low dipping to 12.

A winter weather advisory was posted through 1 p.m. today for Greene and Fayette counties and the higher elevations in Westmoreland, with 2 to 4 inches of fresh snow expected to accumulate. Northern West Virginia and western Maryland, areas of which got pummeled with a foot or more of snow Thursday, were under the same advisory.

Hempfield and South Greensburg issued disaster declarations Thursday, citing low salt supplies. The declarations banned nonessential travel on municipal roads. Trafford also has been approved for an infusion of salt from PennDOT, District 12 spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said.

Ms. Petersen said about 10 percent of the district's stockpile of 12,000 tons will be set aside to help those three municipalities and others in the four-county district that have struggled because their salt suppliers have not kept pace with their orders.

"We are working with our communities as best as we can," she said.

Dan Stevens, spokesman for Westmoreland County public safety services, said municipalities throughout the county were experiencing shortages and said residents should be prepared to ride out the winter without expecting clear, bare pavements immediately after storms.

"People need to allow additional time to get from Point A to Point B and refrain from nonessential driving," he said.

Governments throughout Pennsylvania and across the East and Midwest have dealt with dwindling supplies as major salt producers have failed to meet demand in a winter of record snowfalls and cold.

District 12, comprising Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties, has enough salt for about "five more solid storms," Ms. Petersen said.

Jon Schmitz:, 412-263-1868 or Twitter: @pgtraffic. First Published February 14, 2014 7:13 AM

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