Up to 8 inches of snow forecast for region

Precise totals depend on cold front’s track

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A Pacific storm that brought much-needed precipitation out west Saturday was expected to move into the Pittsburgh region overnight and dump heavy snow here tonight into Monday morning and 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 today through 1 p.m. Monday, and the Weather Service warns the storm could bring 6 to 8 inches of snow.

Armstrong, Beaver, Butler and Indiana counties are under a winter weather 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 0.25 to 0.5 inches of ice could impact roadways and accumulate on trees and power lines causing delays in service.

Precipitation totals will depend on where, precisely, the cold front tracks, said weather experts. If the storm shifts 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 48 hours after the snowfall ends. They're preparing for a level 3 snow and ice event, which calls for focusing on primary and emergency routes.

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.

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.

Farther east, the Atlantic Coast will see snow, sleet and ice from Boston to New York to Washington, forecasters said. 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.

The storm brought some of the highest rainfall totals to the Los Angeles area in years, including 8 inches on some mountains. It was just the beginning of what the region needs to pull out of a major drought.

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

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