Our turn?

Snow squalls predicted to make their way into Warren County early today

Erie, Pa., residents on East 24th Street dig out on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, after a record two-day snowfall. The National Weather Service office in Cleveland says the storm brought 34 inches on Christmas Day, a new all-time daily snowfall record for Erie. (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP)

“You are going to get some snow, but it’s not going to be anything like Erie’s had.”

That’s what Forecaster Paul Head said of the upcoming winter weather expected in Warren County. Right now, said Head, there are snow squalls around Lake Erie, which will be making their way into Jamestown and, eventually, into Warren County as well. Overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday morning, Head said, is when the majority of snow is expected to fall, with a total accumulation of somewhere between three to six inches.

More troublesome than accumulation at this point, said Head, will be wind and whiteout conditions. “People need to be aware that, especially in the open country, they could be driving into conditions that will make it difficult to see.”

PennDOT echoed that caution with two press releases sent out early Tuesday morning. The first asked motorists to be aware that traveling during winter storms like the one expected into Wednesday is ill-advised. If you must be on the road, PennDOT said, you need to be prepared.

“Sudden and heavy snow squalls are one of the biggest challenges that motorists, including PennDOT plow truck drivers, face during the winter,” the press release states. “Sudden squalls can quickly cause roads to become snow covered,” and “cause whiteout conditions that can greatly restrict or virtually eliminate a driver’s visibility.”

Slowing down, keeping headlights on, increasing following distance, being patient, reducing distractions, combining the car’s defroster with using the wipers, keeping windows and mirrors free of ice and snow buildup, avoiding passing or tailgating, using safety belts, and of course not driving under the influence are all ways that PennDOT suggests motorists stay safe. They also warn, “during whiteouts, do not stop in the flow of traffic, and come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible.”

The second release sent Tuesday was in regards to commercial vehicle restrictions on interstates in Erie County. PennDOT restricted commercial vehicles from traveling on Interstate 86, as well as Interstate 90 from the New York state line to the Interstate 79 interchange. Both lightly-loaded and empty semi-trucks were included in the restrictions, as were double trailers, recreational vehicles, and non-commercial vehicles towing trailers.

According to PennDOT Maintenance Supervisor Adam Elms, resources were pulled from surrounding counties to cover the 53 inches of accumulation that occurred over a 30 hour period over the Christmas holiday. Warren County sent one grader, Mercer County sent 6 trucks and one grader, and Crawford County sent 11 trucks as well as one fuel truck.

“Erie County typically runs 38 trucks as a normal day, just to put that into perspective,” said Elms. He also echoed the press release warning, reminding drivers that “as always, we advise people not to travel in snowy conditions.”

While PennDOT’s goal is to keep roads treated, said Elms, it’s important for drivers to remember that treatments like salt and anti-skid are not effective in very cold temperatures. Drivers should not expect to find roads completely free of ice and snow. Extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps, where ice can form without warning. Six car lengths is the amount of space PennDOT recommends between a plow truck and other vehicles.

Also, according to the release, drivers should keep a basic emergency kit in their vehicles that includes non-perishable food, water, a blanket, a small shovel, and warm clothes, as well as any special needs for the medical or personal needs of babies, passengers with health issues, and pets.

Drivers can check the conditions of Pennsylvania roads by visiting 511PA.com, or by downloading the 511 app on a smartphone or calling 5-1-1.