Pittsburgh digs out from first big snowfall
Don Martello of Squirrel Hill works to clear a staircase leading to his housing complex on the heels of a heavy snowstorm on Wednesday.
Dreshawn Craighead, 13, shovels while going up First Street in Wilmerding on Wednesday. He was looking for snow shoveling jobs in his neighborhood after yesterday's storm.
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While Western Pennsylvanians were digging their way out from under Wednesday's snowstorm, forecasters were preparing for more of the white stuff to arrive late Friday or early Saturday.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Moon are predicting that another storm that also formed in the South will enter the region around midnight Friday and produce 1 to 3 inches of new snow before the end of Saturday, when memories of Wednesday's snowfall will likely still be fresh.
Trained spotters told the weather service they recorded 8.5 inches of snow in Indiana, Pa., 7 inches near Punxsutawney, 5 inches in West View and 4 inches on Mount Washington.
Forecasters were calling for snow and freezing rain overnight and today, with an additional 1 to 2 inches of snow expected to accumulate along the Interstate 80 corridor and less than an inch expected elsewhere.
Weather service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said the storm was "nothing out of the ordinary, pretty much a standard storm" but was troublesome nonetheless.
Nonessential Allegheny County and state employees were sent home early after the quick snow accumulation turned the parkways, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and many other roads into a melange of crashes, stuck vehicles and stopped traffic.
The wet, heavy snow turned to hardened slush when driven or walked upon, making streets and sidewalks treacherous. Salt trucks and plows became mired in traffic, unable to make their rounds.
Pittsburgh Public Works director Rob Kaczorowski said his team had 50 pieces of equipment salting and plowing roads. And PennDOT trucks worked in tandem on Interstate 79 southbound.
PennDOT pre-treated interstates in Allegheny County and Route 28, and had 65 of its own trucks and 15 rented trucks treating roadways, spokesman Steve Cowan said.
"In storms of this nature, the goal is to keep the roadways passable -- not completely free of snow and ice," he said. "When it's coming down that quickly, it's near impossible to keep it free of snow and ice."
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spent part of the day working from home and part of the time riding around city streets to inspect conditions, spokeswoman Joanna Doven said. She said public works crews were working overtime on snow removal but noted, "Everyone needs a plow on their street at the same minute."
Asked about the storm response shortly before 4 p.m., Mr. Ravenstahl said, "It's getting there."
Problems on interstate highways, he said, gave some indication of challenges the city has faced with miles of hilly streets.
"The trucks are out there," he said during a brief interview at city hall. "I've seen them out there. The good news is, the snow has stopped."
City Councilman Bill Peduto, who will challenge Mr. Ravenstahl in next year's election, said he had driven on every primary road in his council district Wednesday.
He estimated that 75 to 80 percent of primary roads were passable by 3 p.m. He said that's not good enough considering the amount of snow the city received and the advance warning officials had.
Mr. Kaczorowski said that if roads remained covered in snow late into the night it "wasn't for a lack of effort." The nature of the storm, which brought squals into the night, made it hard to keep up with the accumulation, he said. He said crews planned to work overnight, focusing on plowing secondary streets until about 2 a.m. and then backtracking to replow primary roads if the snow continued.
The sloppy roads caused "delays across the board" on the Port Authority system, spokesman Jim Ritchie said.
Toni Johnson waited 30 minutes to catch a bus near the Consol Energy Center before deciding to hike to the Wood Street station around noon.
The 67-year-old grandmother braved the frosty conditions to pick up a medication for her grandson at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Keyshawn, 9, has sickle cell disease and requires two doses daily of a liquid medication that was accidentally spilled over the Christmas holiday.
"The weather doesn't bother me, but if the city knew this was coming they should have cleared the streets," she said as she rode the 88 bus headed Downtown around 1:40 p.m.
Ms. Johnson said she only went outside because her trip was a necessity.
"I'm not coming back out," she said. "If it was not for this, I would not have been out at all."
First Published December 27, 2012 12:00 am