Western Pennsylvania, region gear up for potential heavy snowstorm Sunday

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With just 20 days remaining until the onset of spring, Old Man Winter continues to remind the Pittsburgh area that he's still very much in charge.

Commuters on this morning faced single-digit temperatures in the city and nearby suburbs, with even lower readings across many parts of Western Pennsylvania.

But there are more and perhaps more significant weather woes ahead, just past the time when the calendar flips from February to March.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh late this morning issued a winter storm watch for nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania in effect from Sunday afternoon through Monday afternoon. The weather service said "a significant early March snowfall is in store for the area," which includes Pennsylvania counties from Forest, Venango and Mercer to the north and Allegheny, Washington, Greene and Fayette to the south.

Also included in the storm watch area is much of southern Ohio, the West Virginia panhandle and other northern counties, and Garrett County, Md.

The weather service said snow through Sunday afternoon is expected to be relatively light and accumulate less than 2 inches, but it may mix with rain in more southerly locations across the region.

By late Sunday afternoon or early evening, snowfall could become heavy and deposit 6 inches or more by Monday. Some other weather outlets, including AccuWeather, are reporting the possibility of 6 to 12 inches of snow in areas north of Interstate 70. Highs may reach 30, but fall into the mid 20s by afternoon.

The weather service said there is uncertainty on the exact locations where the heaviest snowfall will occur.

Pittsburgh public works crews already are making plans to combat the storm, with city officials warning it could take up to 48 hours after snowfall 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 a news release from Mayor Bill Peduto's office.

The city plans to deploy 50 public works trucks in 12-hour shifts beginning Sunday evening, increasing the fleet to 65 trucks by Monday morning.

Before all of the potential snowfall late this weekend, the region will experience relative calm on Saturday, the first day of March. It will bring highs in the lower 40s under cloudy skies with a chance of snow showers in the afternoon and snow with rain in the evening.

The weekend's weather got off to a rousing start this morning, where frigid temperatures were the rule.

In its public information statement released at 6:49 a.m., the National Weather Service reported the following low temperatures overnight: Lynch, Forest County, minus 16; Portersville, Butler County, minus 13; Clarion, Clintonville and Mercer, minus 11; New Bethlehem, Rural Valley and Connoquenessing Township, minus 10; and Foxburg and Punxsutawney, minus 9.

In Allegheny County, lows reported included minus 5 in Plum, Imperial, Bridgeville and near Valencia; and minus 4 in Heidelberg and Hampton.

For the latest conditions and forecast, visit the Post-Gazette's weather page.

First Published February 28, 2014 5:52 AM

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